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Appeals court upholds police board’s firing of officer

By The Mercury

The Kansas Court of Appeals on Thursday announced its affirmation of a September 2013 Riley County District Court ruling that upheld a decision made in 2011 by the Law Enforcement Agency Board to terminate a police officer.

According to an unpublished opinion provided to The Mercury, the Court of Appeals determined the board appropriately ruled that RCPD Director Brad Schoen had cause to fire former officer Ernest Hamilton and that “substantial evidence” was presented to establish cause.

Schoen notified Hamilton of his removal in October 2010 for allegedly violating department policies.  Almost a year later, the police board held a three-day hearing to consider Hamilton’s termination.

After hearing testimony from both sides, the board concluded Schoen’s decision was appropriate.

In September 2013, the board’s decision was affirmed in Riley County District Court.

In his appeal, Hamilton argued that there wasn’t substantial evidence to support a cause for his termination. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed.

The opinion states that Schoen’s testimony during the police board hearing included several incidents when Hamilton exceeded the speed limit or made other decisions considered dangerous while responding to calls or chasing vehicles that had committed traffic violations.

The first of the incidents occurred in 1999, while the last happened in 2010.

The latest incident involved a domestic abuse allegedly occurring inside a moving vehicle. While responding, Hamilton exceeded the speed limit and rolled through stop signs without activating his car’s emergency lights and sirens.

Prior incidents included a 2009 chase involving a motorcycle that had a passenger on the back. Hamilton reportedly tried to catch up by going through intersections at 80 to 90 miles per hour and sometimes exceeded 120 miles per hour.

The Court of Appeals opinion lists four other pursuit-related incidents in which Hamilton received either a reprimand or was suspended for his actions.

The court also determined that the board appropriately considered Hamilton’s years of service before reaching its decision.

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