Police find ticket after refusing to apologize

CPD Chief Ken Burton said it was inappropriate to apologize because it was not a matter of misconduct.

The Citizens Police Review Board recently recommended the Columbia Police Department apologize for an incident that began in April of 2009.

The complaint involved an accident Columbia resident Rose Weilbacher caused and the handling of the ticket issued to her.

CPD Chief Ken Burton declined the board’s recommendation, issuing a statement that said he did not believe it was appropriate to apologize for what happened because it was a mistake, not misconduct.

Recent developments show there was no mistake with the ticket.

Community Service Aide Kyle Townley, who was handling the accident on April 8, 2009, told Weilbacher, after leaving the scene, she could discard the ticket because it was being voided.

CPD spokeswoman Jill Wieneke said Townley had to issue a second ticket because the first ticket said the taillights on the car Weilbacher hit weren’t functioning, information CPD couldn’t verify.

Weilbacher complained she did not receive the second ticket after missing her court date. A warrant was issued for her arrest, though she was not taken into custody. CPRB asked Burton to apologize for this error.

When Townley, who is no longer working for CPD, heard about this complaint, he looked for the original ticket, which he believed he lost.

"I guess when Ms. Weilbacher made her complaint to the board, she believed the second ticket had a different address," CPD spokeswoman Jessie Haden said. "CSA Townley had that second ticket. It was the exact same address. There was never any discrepancy. That's the address she signed her signature to."

Co-founder of CoMoCitizens Donald Warren said originally, he thought this was the first example of the department dropping the ball. But after the developments, he said maybe Chief Burton’s decision was correct.

“You have to be responsible with your addresses,” Warren said. “That’s on the citizen to at least give the correct address so they can reach you.”

Burton said in his statement he believed the complaint by Weilbacher was not about misconduct, so CPRB did not have the authority to issue a decision on the case.

“He thought it was out of the scope of what the board is directed to do,” Wieneke said. "The (CPRB) did not have the authority to review this, not someone making a clerical error. In addition, they don't review cases of someone simply thinking they should not have been given a ticket. This is an issue for the court.”

CoMoCitizen member Eapen Thampy said he thinks this incident could be precedent to strengthen the CPRB’s recommendations.

“I think this demonstrates it is toothless,” he said. “I would like to see City Council add some force to the decisions the police review board decides to make.”

Wieneke said there were things the CPRB and CPD still need to work through.

“There are kinks that are still going to have to be worked out,” she said. “But we can work on it together, I think.”

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