Three Jefferson City Officers Still on Job Despite DWI
The Missouri Department of Public Safety, which reviews all incidents of police officer discipline, did not think the officers should lose their law enforcement licenses.
However, Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Tackett said keeping them on the job is a problem.
"How can I put someone on the stand to testify against someone for driving while intoxicated when they themselves have a record for that?" he asked.
Tackett lost his primary re-election bid in August, so Schroeder questioned the timing of Tackett's criticism.
"You can throw politics in the mix if you want, but it doesn't avoid the issue, do our police officers have prior convictions?" Tackett responded. "And if they do, how can they take the stand and be credible?"
Columbia Chief Randy Boehm and heads of several other mid-Missouri police departments said they have no official policy, but could not imagine keeping an officer on duty after a drinking and driving conviction.
"I don't see how an officer working the road could possibly do their job after getting a DWI," explained Fulton Chief Steve Myers.
The new Jefferson City administrator, Steve Rasmussen, said he and Chief Schroeder will deal more severely with any other officers who are arrested for drinking and driving.
"I wouldn't say that we have a zero tolerance policy, we almost have a zero tolerance policy," Rasmussen said. "And that is, that we certainly will not be tolerant of infractions of those laws, but that we would handle each case on its own merits."
Jefferson City Mayor John Landwehr added, "To what extent, in looking at the event, to what extent was there a threat to the public?"
Chief Shroeder said, "Those employees hadn't had a checkered past, they were productive people, their heart was in the right place, they believe in this community, they want to serve this community and they've done outstanding jobs since those events occurred. It's just too bad that those things happened. Yes, we've taken steps to prevent them from happening again. Do I regret calling them fellow law enforcement officers? Not a bit."
However, even if Jefferson City wanted an official policy to deal with officers caught driving drunk, the town's attorney said it's not that simple.
"Part of the situation is, when you've had years ago, somebody who may have been treated differently, it makes it difficult to switch to a different policy at this point in time," explained Nathan Nickolaus. "Years ago, DWI was socially considered very different than what it is now, and so an officer having a DWI might not have been as big of a deal as it certainly would be today."
The Missouri Department of Public Safety reported 89 officer investigations, including drinking violations, last year. Those investigations led to the loss or suspension of licenses, or probation, for 42 officers.