Human Rights Group Says Former Officer Should Not Get Job Back

6 years 3 months 4 days ago Thursday, November 21 2013 Nov 21, 2013 Thursday, November 21, 2013 11:21:00 AM CST November 21, 2013 in News
By: Emily Spain, KOMU 8 Anchor

COLUMBIA - The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) Human Rights Task Force does not want to see former officer Rob Sanders get rehired at the Columbia Police Department. The group released a statement Wednesday morning in support of Chief Ken Burton, who fired Sanders in 2011. 

This comes after Sanders forcefully shoved inmate Kenneth Baker in a holding cell and the controversial video of it went viral. Sanders said he followed his training that night in August 2011 and had asked Baker multiple times to stop banging on the holding cell door before pushing him. 

In the statement from MASW, leaders of the group said Burton was justified in firing Sanders.

"Burton's mind was made up because he had seen the jail video that clearly shows Sanders shove the defenseless prisoner into a wall hard enough to cause permanent injuries," it said.

The majority of the statement, however, calls for change and a conversation regarding excessive force. 

"It's good to see excessive force getting media coverage but the drama of Sanders' appeal distracts from the more important need to head off future problems. MASW promotes policies that build a more professional, better trained police force," co-chair of the human rights task force, Don Love wrote. 

The statement said Sanders' actions should not distract from the goal to build a more professional police department. It also asks the community to have a better understanding of the challenges facing officers on the streets and how they deal with them.

"Use of force is one of the most difficult issues. It deserves an open discussion so that we can reach a consensus on what is acceptable and avoid more situations like this one," the statement said.

The police department's Internal Affairs Unit deemed Sanders' actions were according to policy and training. Despite that finding, Burton fired Sanders in September 2011. Sanders was later charged with third degree assault, but a Boone County judge acquitted him of that charge in October of this year.

"We are supposed to use the minimal force that we need to take somebody into custody or do whatever the goal is and in this particular case, I did exactly what I was trained to do," Sanders said in an interview earlier this month.

Most recently, the city's Personnel Advisory Board had a hearing for Sanders to try and get his job back on Friday. That hearing lasted more than 13 hours. City Manager Mike Matthes has 30 days to decide on whether to rehire Sanders after receiving the board's recommendation. 

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