Back on August 27th 2006, in my post entitled "Courageous Arbitrator Orders Reinstatement Of Nebraska State Trooper Fired For Klan Ties", I discussed the case of Nebraska State Trooper Robert Henderson (pictured at left courtesy of ABCNews), an 18-year veteran of the force who was fired from his job in February 2006 because of former ties with a Internet discussion group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, despite the fact that there were no incidents of racial abuse on his record. Henderson appealed the action, and in August, an arbitrator ruled Henderson should be reinstated within 60 days and receive all back pay. Attorney General Jon Bruning then chose to not only appeal the arbitration (which is supposed to be binding), but convinced State Senator Ernie Chambers to file a request for Henderson's decertification as a law enforcement officer with the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Justice.
Developments since that time, while few and far between, have been significant. On September 5th, the Lincoln (NE) Journal-Star reported that Senator Chambers (pictured at left, courtesy of Politicsnationwide.com) did indeed file a 13-page letter officially asking the Commission on Law Enforcement and Justice to task the Crime Commission to investigate Henderson and revoke his law enforcement certification. The revocation process includes an investigation, a quasi-judicial hearing before an eight-member police standards advisory council, and a final decision by the 18-member crime commission, said commission director Michael Behm. Chambers has said this will provide another avenue for Henderson's removal should Bruning's appeal not be successful.
In the letter, Chambers said Klan membership is not consistent with the ethical, moral and professional standards for law enforcement certification. In the letter, he presents the Klan’s history of lawless behavior, from bribery at the polls to arson and murder.
Disclaimers — like the language on the Knights Party site that the group is nonviolent — are also common, he wrote. “Claiming that the Klan is merely a legal political movement is tantamount to proclaiming that La Cosa Nostra is merely a conservative gentlemen’s club and that the Mafia is nothing more than a charitable fraternal organization dedicated to community betterment,” he added. Henderson’s membership in the Knights Party and his postings on the Web “raise serious questions” about whether the former trooper is capable of conducting himself with the moral awareness required at all times of state troopers, according to Chambers.
The Knights Party is affiliated with the KKK, and people who join the members-only Web site must agree to a white supremacist “purity pledge” that they are not of racially mixed descent, are not married to a nonwhite, don’t date nonwhites or have nonwhite dependents.
On October 5th, Attorney General Jon Bruning did file his appeal, a Motion To Vacate Arbitration Award. No news on the outcome yet.
Review of the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Justice website indicates that the most recent meeting of the Crime Commission took place on October 27th. The minutes show that Acting Chair Matt McNair inquired about the status of Henderson's case. Commission Director Michael Behm responded that the investigative agency had been changed from the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department to the Omaha Police Department, due to an unspecified conflict of interest. The Commission discussed the fact that there were 24 pending revocation cases, and that the slow resolution was attributable to the lack of assigned investigators and failure to fund any hires. The Commission recommended funding and hiring at least one attorney and one investigator to expedite these investigations. The next scheduled meeting will be on January 26th, 2007, which is the earliest that Henderson's case could be heard. So Henderson must cool his heels until then, unless Bruning's appeal is turned down in court during the interim.
Undoubtedly this is exactly what Attorney General Jon Bruning (pictured at left, courtesy of the Attorney General website) most likely planned. First, he takes the unusual step of appealing a binding arbitration ruling. Then, as insurance, he also sics a notorious race-hustling black State Senator, Ernie Chambers, on the case by convincing him to file a decertification request. They figure one of these methods should get rid of Henderson with the added bonus of saving the state some retirement pay. Or perhaps they think Henderson may grow tired of the delay and throw in the towel. Unfortunately, voters endorsed Bruning's perfidy on election day when they re-elected him Attorney General as a Republican (he ran unopposed). Chambers was not up for re-election; he term-limits out in 2008.
While Henderson has never been accused of racial abuse on the job, there has been one complaint filed against him. On August 20th, The Readers Media Notes blog posted a story about an unsubstantiated misconduct complaint filed against Henderson by Omaha's KMTV Channel 5 weekend anchor Devon Patton. The complaint was included in the arbitrator's 48-page report directing Henderson's reinstatment.
On August 26th, 2005, Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Todd Kinghorn received a complaint from NSP Captain Tom Schwarten alleging that Henderson "was abusing his authority and harassing a black man who was employed as a new (sic) anchor for a television station in Omaha, NE." The report stated that Henderson pulled Patton's vehicle over for displaying out-of-state plates. Nebraska law requires that persons residing in the state for more than 30 days must obtain Nebraska license plates.
Henderson did not ticket Patton, but did issue him a warning. Patton subsequently lodged a complaint against Henderson, which led to an internal investigation of the incident. Following a review of the in-car video of the traffic stop that was the genesis of the allegation - the State Patrol concluded that Henderson had not engaged in any misconduct.
Patton was hired at KMTV in January of 2005. The report does not specify the exact date Henderson initiated the traffic stop. However, the complaint against Henderson was not filed until late August. However, there's another wrinkle. The report also goes on to say "there appears to have been some friction between" Patton and Henderson's then-fiancee Jesse Coler, who works at KMTV as a photojournalist and who eventually married Henderson.
One person posted a comment speculating on the possible cause of that friction:
At 10:17 AM, N-the-Nuze said…
There Devon Patton goes again--getting personally involved in the news.
Are we to understand that he filed a complaint because he received a WARNING for not having his vehicle properly registered in Nebraska? He was lucky! Most people receive a hefty fine! There's much more to this than we know.
Therefore, it is apparant that Henderson most likely said something (threatening) to Devon about his making advances toward Henderson's then-fiancee. Patton is well known in the business for his "hitting on" younger (usually blonde) caucasian women. Nothing illegal about that, but it isn't exactly behavior becoming of an on-air personality in a market this size.
Considering that Henderson lost his first wife to a Latino, and that his soon-to-be second wife was being hit upon by a black, his restraint was quite admirable.
Henderson should never have been fired in the first place. By the time investigators caught up with him, he had ceased his association with the Klan. The unprecedented vindictiveness of Attorney General Jon Bruning towards this trooper is absolutely appalling - to be willing to risk squandering public money appealing a binding arbitration ruling smacks of unbelievable Dubya-style fanaticism. Bruning is acting like a Savonarola.
However, I recognize the attendant controversy, so perhaps it would be better if he was not reinstated providing he is given retirement as if he had worked 20 years. His unblemished track record warrants this consideration.
Tags: politics , racism , profiling , brrreeeport , white supremacism , divorce