Protestors gather at Water Patrol hearing
JEFFERSON CITY -The Missouri House Review Committee on the 2011 Water Patrol Merger met Wednesday to discuss the impact of combining the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Water Patrol.
Wednesday's meeting comes in the wake of Brandon Ellingson's death at the Lake of the Ozarks in May. Ellingson was under arrest for suspected DWI. Witnesses said he was handcuffed and improperly placed in a life jacket before drowning.
An online petition asking for a re-investigation of Ellingson's death has reached more than130,000 signatures.
Protesters gathered at the state capitol Wednesday morning quietly holding signs that said "I am Brandon Ellingson's Voice."
"I want to see police held accountable for their actions and mistakes that have cost people their lives," said protester Ben Smith.
The committee said they would not talk about specific incidents at the meeting but they did hear testimony from current and former Water Patrol officers.
Troop F Captain Matt Walz said "We want the same reputation on the water as we do on the roads. We want people to know that we're not just there to write tickets."
Walz said he does not want to undo the merger of 2011 or remove officers from their positions. Walz also said since the merger, "There has to be oversight by management, and I see signs of positive changes occurring."
The committee discussing the merger met twice in October and they will meet again on November 19th near Table Rock Lake.