Arguments heard in Rob Sanders case to overturn CPD termination

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District convened at the MU School of Law Tuesday, and heard arguments in the case of Rob Sanders.

Sanders was the Columbia police officer who was terminated in 2011 for excessive use of force on an inmate that resulted in injuries. In January of this year a Cole County judge ordered that Sanders be reinstated to the force. On Wednesday, arguments were heard as a result of the city's appeal of that decision. 

Afterward Sanders said he was pleased with how the arguments went. 

"I think it's important that the court spoke up and recognized that all of the officers in all of the testimonies were totally in favor of me at the at the Personnel Advisory Board, except the chief's testimony, which was only opinion-based," Sanders said. 

Both sides argued whether it was or was not appropriate for Sanders to shove the inmate based on previous hearings and witness testimonies. Sanders' attorney Scott Jansen argued that he acted within the policies he was taught in his training. 

The policy that Sanders followed, according to Jansen, is when an inmate bangs on the cell, they get one verbal warning. The second time, the inmate has to be handcuffed to a ring in his or her cell. If there is force necessary in order to accomplish this, Jansen said the policy backs it. 

The city's attorney, John Landwher, argued that it was not a policy, but a practice. He read the policy to the judges as stating officers "may" handcuff inmates to the ring if they are an immediate threat to themselves or anyone around them, resisting arrest or damaging property. 

"If I wasn't supposed to do it, they never would have put in the policy that I may do that. Because if you say you may do something in a policy, that means you can. It is regarded as applicable in those situations," Sanders said. 

During their arguments, both sides acknowledged that Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton did not appear to be in favor of this policy. Sanders said even though he is ready to get back to work, he believes working under Burton, who has been against him throughout this process, would be a challenge. 

"I would say that it is difficult for any Columbia Police Department officer to work for this chief with the policies, procedures and the way that he has treated officers, and acted with the police department officers," Sanders said. 

Sanders also said that he felt the chief giving testimony against him was him, 'Trying to make a public relations statement.' 

CPD Chief Ken Burton made the decision to terminate Sanders in 2011. And City Manager Mike Matthes chose not to reinstate Sanders in 2013 after a Personnel Advisory Board Hearing. In January of this year a Cole County Judge ruled that Sanders be reinstated.

A decision is expected within 90 days. Both the city and its lawyers refused our request to comment.