Joplin City Hall continues to hear from residents on police-school issue

By Jeff Wells

Globe Staff Writer

Joplin police and city officials say they continue to hear from residents regarding the conduct of two Joplin police officers who questioned, handcuffed and arrested an 11-year-old boy at a local elementary school.

City Manager Mark Rohr and police Chief Kevin Lindsey told the Globe on Monday that they have received numerous letters and phone calls about the incident, but neither man could say how many residents have expressed their opinions.

State Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said Monday that in a telephone conversation last week, he told Lindsey that he thinks the city needs to reveal what punishment was given to the officers.

"I believe it would be healthier for the community if the city's response to the incident was publicly known and understood," Nodler said.

Nodler said his comments are strictly as a private individual, and Lindsey said he thought Nodler was not speaking in an official role.

Lindsey said he is making himself available to any residents who want to talk about the incident. He said he didn't know how many letters and phone calls he has received since the Globe first reported about the incident on April 28.

Rohr said he is not trying to downplay the officers' behavior. He said he is convinced that seeking accreditation for the Police Department will prevent a similar event in the future.

"I am assuming full responsibility and working with the police chief to correct the situation, and the means by which to do that is accreditation," Rohr said.

The allegations of misconduct stem from a November 2004 incident in which Officers Charles Ward and Ron Buchanan questioned, handcuffed and arrested a fifth-grade student who had been involved in a dispute with Ward's son outside a local movie theater.

Rohr said Lindsey first told him about the incident after the department received a letter from an attorney representing the boy's family in February.

"He felt he needed to tell me, and that was an appropriate response," Rohr said.

Rohr said the city code prevents him from revealing what disciplinary action was taken against the officers.

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