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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 5 years ago

Police officer disputes firing

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by: Kurt Schultheis Managing Editor

Police Chief Al Hogle fired Longboat Key police officer Jessica Anderson Wednesday, Oct. 21, 48 days after she was placed on unpaid leave while the department investigated an arrest that did not meet professional standards.

Hogle’s announcement comes six days after his termination of former police officer Patti Beardsley, who waved her department-issued handgun at a motorist Sept. 16 in front of her Sarasota home.

Anderson’s termination went into effect Sept. 4.

In a disciplinary action memo sent to Anderson dated Oct. 21, Hogle said Anderson awakened a Key resident June 14 and told him to move his vehicle from the grass median beside his home, even though the vehicle was not creating a traffic hazard.

A video of the incident taped from Anderson’s squad car reveals Anderson did not give the man an opportunity to produce his driver’s license or move the vehicle before arresting him for “resisting, obstructing and failure to obey a lawful command.”

The memo also states Anderson yelled “extremely inappropriate language in front of children who were present.”

On June 26, the 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office issued a “decline to file” on Anderson’s arrest of the Key resident.

In a pre-disciplinary hearing conducted in August, Anderson admitted to “inappropriate actions.”

Anderson, however, who was hired in March 2008, has filed an appeal that Town Manager Bruce St. Denis will review.

Southwest Police Benevolent Association attorney Michael Krohn said he believes Anderson was treated differently than other officers in the department.

Krohn said other officers have several incidents in their files and are still employed by the town.

“She made a mistake, but we believe the termination was excessive and disparate in treatment,” Krohn said. “We hope the town manager will be fair and neutral (during the appeal hearing).”

Hogle said the loss of the police officers has not been a problem, because they have been on leave for weeks, but he said the positions will be filled as soon as possible.

“The bottom line is all shifts are being met,” said Hogle, who said captains are working longer hours, and a few overtime opportunities are available each week to make sure the department does not fall below minimum manning requirements.

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