I read Hank Waters’ editorial and the Columbia Daily Tribune’s news story on the Rob Sanders situation. The Tribune once again continues its traditional sympathetic approach to police misconduct issues. First, no reporting disclosed that before Judge Carol England became a prosecuting attorney she was a police officer, which at a minimum raises a troubling appearance to this “bench trial.” Second, Rob Sanders' attack on the defenseless prisoner resulted in permanent injuries. Injuries that but for his status as a police officer would have secured felony assault charges, not misdemeanor charges. Third, in a criminal trial the reasonableness of his conduct in accordance with police procedure is not relevant, unless he was entitled to a self-defense or defense of others instruction, which he was not. Fourth, the reasonableness of his conduct as a police officer was directly relevant to civil liability but the city has rightly conceded that attacking an annoying but defenseless prisoner in a jail cell and causing permanent injuries to him was not reasonable. Fifth, the conduct of the special prosecutor in this matter is troubling and gives the appearance that they were tanking the case.
As a former police officer, I am proud of my service in law enforcement, and I am proud of my family members that serve in law enforcement today. Police need to set a higher standard in performing a difficult and challenging profession. The de facto creation of the new charge of assault by law enforcement officer is wrong. When a biased CPD internal review whitewash provides a defense to the charge it is a direct assault on the concept of Equal Under the Law and reinforces the double standard that troubles this community.
Stephen Wyse is an attorney in Columbia.