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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009 8 years ago

Anderson requests reinstatement

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

At a Dec. 8 appeal in front of Town Manager Bruce St. Denis, Southwest Police Benevolent Association Attorney Michael Krohn argued that the firing of former town Police Officer Jessica Anderson was unjust, when comparing her actions to those of other officers.

Anderson awakened Key resident James Menendez June 14 and told him to move his vehicle from the median, even though the vehicle was not creating a traffic hazard. 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 arrest was not upheld by the State Attorney’s Office, and Anderson was fired Oct. 21 after Police Chief Al Hogle determined Anderson took away the rights of a Longboat Key citizen for what was not deemed a legitimate arrest.

Town labor attorney Reynolds Allen, of Allen, Norton and Blue, called Anderson’s actions atrocious, unacceptable and clearly indicative that the town should not employ her.

“She lost total control of a situation that was a very routine matter, blown completely out of proportion,” Allen said. “She utilized totally unacceptable and gross language and arrested a citizen who had no need to be arrested in front of his children.”

Allen noted that Anderson apologized for the incident but that she gave no indication that she was disputing her actions at a pre-disciplinary hearing earlier this year.

Krohn, however, said Anderson’s actions did not rise to the level of termination.

“Her actions were clearly wrong on that date,” Krohn said. “However, other officers with lengthy complaint records with this agency have used gross language during routine matters with town citizens and were not terminated.”

Krohn submitted into the record copies of reprimands and reports from three Longboat Key police officers as evidence.

While the audio of the incident that led to Anderson’s firing was played twice during the hearing, Krohn explained that what the chief could not see during the video was Menendez repeatedly trying to walk away from Anderson while making no attempt to retrieve his license.

Said Anderson on the witness stand: “He was lunging forward in an aggressive manner that a trained officer would take active safety measures against.”

Anderson, however, said if she had to do it all over again, she would have just left a parking ticket for Menendez on the windshield of his truck.

While Hogle was on the witness stand, he told St. Denis that Anderson’s conduct was an embarrassment to the town and he was worried what would happen the next time Anderson was in a similar situation.

Krohn, however, told Hogle that if he was concerned about Anderson’s behavior, he should have removed her from the force immediately instead of keeping her on the town’s payroll for weeks after Hogle found out about the incident.

Krohn told St. Denis his client is seeking reinstatement as a police officer. Attorneys will present final written arguments by Jan. 18. St. Denis will make his final decision after that.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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