City manager rejects Rob Sanders' appeal to reclaim police job

Thursday, December 26, 2013 | 5:49 p.m. CST; updated 7:34 a.m. CST, Friday, December 27, 2013

COLUMBIA — Rob Sanders will not get his job back with the Columbia Police Department, the city manager said Thursday.

In a brief news release, Mike Matthes announced that Sanders would not return to the department, that he had notified the former officer and would not discuss the matter further.

Sanders, who was fired two years ago after shoving a prisoner in a holding cell, appealed for reinstatement during a hearing Nov. 15 before the city's personnel advisory board. In accordance with the city’s Code of Ordinances, Matthes had 3o days to respond to the hearing.

The procedure gave members of the advisory board 10 days to make a recommendation to Matthes. Its recommendation was not disclosed, and the city manager had the authority to make a final decision.

The release quoted Matthes: “After careful consideration of the testimony and evidence submitted during Mr. Sanders’s appeal hearing, I will not reinstate Mr. Sanders.”

Sanders, a police officer for 18 years, was fired from the department in September 2011. A security video had been released that showed Sanders shoving an inmate into the wall of a holding cell. That led to an internal affairs investigation and precipitated Sanders' dismissal.

Nearly a year later, a special prosecutor charged him with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. A two-day bench trial ended in his acquittal on Oct. 1.

Sanders then petitioned the city to reclaim his job with the Police Department.

The security video has been central to the matter for the past two years. In the footage, Sanders is shown pushing prisoner Kenneth Baker, with Baker shouting for help and banging on the door to his cell.

In December 2011, the city paid Baker $250,000 to settle a civil lawsuit that arose from his injuries and subsequent medical bills.

During last month's appeal hearing, Columbia Police Lt. Krista Shouse-Jones said the internal affairs investigation determined that the allegations against Sanders were unfounded.

The allegations included use of excessive force, failure to provide medical assistance and abuse or improper treatment of  a prisoner.  

Police Chief Ken Burton, however, testified during the same hearing that his decision to terminate Sanders didn't reflect the investigation's findings. The police chief called Sanders' use of force "unjustified, unreasonable and unnecessary."

During the course of this dispute, Sanders has been supported by the Columbia Police Officers Association and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.

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Jack Hamm December 27, 2013 | 6:18 a.m.

Good decision by Matthes; Sanders has no business with a badge and a gun.

Next they need to find whatever idiot in Internal Affairs that cleared Sanders. Internal Affairs at CPD is either incompetent or corrupt; either way they need to be replaced.

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