Mo. city settles with inmate officer pushed

YouTube Video: Officer loses job over holding cell incident

By Janese Silvey
Columbia Daily Tribune

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The city has reached a settlement with a man who was shoved in a Columbia Police Department holding cell in August.

Kenneth Baker has filed a motion to dismiss his case against the city and three officers, including Rob Sanders, who was fired over the incident. Baker is expected to receive $250,000, which will cover medical expenses, said attorney Ron Netemeyer.

Baker filed the suit last month in U.S. Western District Court charging the city and officers with excessive use of force, violations of constitutional rights, assault and battery and failure to provide medical services. The suit stems from an Aug. 15 incident when Baker was taken into custody for resisting arrest.

After being pepper-sprayed, he was taken to the police station's booking area and held in a cell. Baker began banging on a cell door and yelling for water to rinse his eyes. When Sanders entered, he pushed Baker, who struck the wall and hit his head on concrete. Baker suffered a permanent compression fracture, Netemeyer said.

The incident was captured on police video, which attorney Milt Harper credited, in part, for the settlement.

Because the lawsuit is still pending until a judge approves the motion, Sanders' attorney, Scott Jansen, declined to comment. And Sanders declined to comment, saying he could still face criminal charges.

Police Chief Burton, city attorneys and police and city spokespersons were not available for comment yesterday.

Burton fired Sanders in September on grounds of use of excessive force, even though an internal investigation cleared Sanders of wrongdoing.

The firing has set off a chain of reactions, both in support of and against Burton's decision. One group calling itself Chief Burton Needs to Resign began a petition effort last month after unsuccessful attempts to get Sanders reinstated or enable him to purchase his canine partner from the city.

In response, a local civil liberties group, Keep Columbia Free, launched a counter petition this month in support of Burton's decision.

Baker's attorneys say they, too, support the move. "No one supports proper law enforcement like we do," Harper said. "On the other hand, excessive force is against the law. We commend Chief Burton for taking strong disciplinary action -- swift action -- when this was brought to his attention."

Netemeyer pointed out this is the second case he's settled with the city over issues of excessive force. In April, the city reached a settlement with Keri Cox, who received $130,000 after suing the city and Officer Patrick Corcoran, whose attempted arrest of her resulted in her getting her arm broken.

"The police department has to do something about how officers conduct themselves," Netemeyer said.

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