Riley County, KAN. (WIBW) -- A former Riley County police officer is fighting to get his job back but department officials say he is too much of a liability to keep on the force.
Patrol officer Sam Hamilton, who served for more than a decade in the department, was fired last year.
He contested his termination during a hearing with the Riley County Law Board Thursday. Law Board members include the Manhattan mayor, city and county commissioners and the Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson.
Director of the Riley County Police Department Brad Schoen says Hamilton was let go after he repeatedly violated traffic laws and department policies for operating his police cruiser during a number of different high speed chases.
Morgan Roach, Hamilton’s attorney, says he committed minor infractions that did not warrant him losing his job, especially after years of solid police work.
Mike Gillespie, the lawyer for the Riley County Police Department who represented the director during the hearing, says the agency will not deny that Hamilton did great police work in the years he was there and was even named Officer of the Year one year. But ultimately, Gillespie says the risk of keeping him as an officer outweighed the good work he had previously done because he did not learn from his mistakes. Gillespie and Schoen went through six disciplinary actions taken against Hamilton during his employment.
Schoen told the Law Board that the 2010 incident that resulted in Hamilton’s termination started when the officer responded to a “rolling domestic dispute” regarding two people fighting in a moving car in Manhattan. As he went to find the car, Schoen says he went through 6-7 stop signs in neighborhoods and was spotted going through a busy intersection at Kimball Avenue and Tuttle Creek Boulevard with his police lights on but not his sirens.
Gillespie also referred to Hamilton chasing a motorcycle with a passenger on board and following a car through the Aggieville district at bar closing time through an alley with pedestrians. Hamilton caught the suspect but Schoen revealed that a pedestrian was hit during the pursuit and Hamilton kept going, not stopping to help. Video of the pursuit was shown to the Law Board.
Morgan Roach described Hamilton as a decorated officer with a number awards for his outstanding achievements. He told the Law Board that the disciplinary actions taken against Hamilton before 2002 no longer apply because they’re expired due to a “reckoning” period. At times, he says the former officer was unfairly scrutinized.
“These actions are, for the most parts, underwhelming. There’s no barreling through a stop sign. This is slowing down and looking both ways at intersections… You will see that there is no apparent danger on that video. A technical violation? Perhaps. Terminal offense for an over ten year employee who has done all of these great things for this department- not even close. Not in our opinion,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the former officer wants his position reinstated and wants back pay.
Thursday's hearing started at 3 PM at Manhattan City Hall and went to around 10 PM with Mike Gillespie presenting the Riley County Police Department's case against Hamilton. The hearing will resume on October 31st at 3 PM. Sam Hamilton's attorney will present his case at that time.