Former police officer says he'll take case to court

Former police officer Rob Sanders trains a Rottweiler Saturday. Sanders says he will file for a judicial review of the decision not to reinstate him.

Former Columbia police officer Rob Sanders said Saturday he plans to ask for a judicial review of the city's decision not to reinstate him.

Sanders told KRCG 13 City Manager Mike Matthes' decision not to give him his job back did not surprise him, given Matthes' past support for police chief Ken Burton. He said he felt Matthes gave Burton's testimony to a city panel in November more weight than the other witnesses who testified that day.

"It's difficult for me to understand how the city manager could listen to all the evidence, then listened to all of the testimony, which also cleared me, and took the word of a person that said he watched 10 seconds of video and decided he was going to terminate me," he said.

Sanders was fired in August 2011 after a video surfaced showing him pushing a city jail inmate. The inmate, Ken Baker, slammed into the wall on the other side of the cell, fracturing a vertebra.

Sanders was charged with assault in the incident but ultimately acquitted in October 2013. In November, Sanders appeared before Columbia's Personnel Advisory Board in an effort to get his job back. After nearly 14 hours of testimony from Sanders and Burton as well as several current and former police officers, the board sent a report to Matthes, who had final say over whether Sanders would be reinstated. The board's report has not been made public, but Matthes announced on Thursday he had decided not to reinstate Sanders.

Sanders said he plans to file for a judicial review as soon as he can, though he does not know exactly when he will do so. In the meantime, he said he is applying to other law enforcement agencies. Given a choice, he said he would rather go back to work in Columbia than join another agency.

Matthes said in a news release accompanying Thursday's announcement he would not answer any questions about his decision.