LEADWOOD – Full-time police officer Beau Reichenbach, who had just finished his four-month probationary period on the department, thought Leadwood aldermen were going to officially take him off probation during Monday night’s executive session.
Instead, Reichenbach, who served briefly as acting police chief after the Dec. 4 death of Jerry Hicks, and part-time police detective Reggie Jaco, an eight-and-a-half-year veteran of the department, learned Tuesday night that the board had voted to fire them.
Part-time officer Joe Ulozas said he resigned as soon as he heard the news.
“They are firing fine officers,” Ulozas said.
The firings and resignation leave the Leadwood Police Department with three full-time officers and three part-time officers, Mayor Dennis Parks said. Reserve officers will fill in to maintain coverage in the city.
Parks and Ken Meinershagen, the alderman who serves as police commissioner, called Jaco and Reichenbach to a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the police department. The officers thought they were going to talk about an issue in the department, Jaco said.
When they arrived, Sgt. Chris Overmann, the current acting police chief, also was there. Parks and Meinershagen told the officers they were suspended for three days, after which they were terminated.
Parks said Tuesday night that the suspension is policy so the city attorney can determine whether the termination was handled properly. The mayor declined to give a reason for the terminations.
“I’d better not say until we talk to the attorney,” Parks said. “But we definitely had reason.”
The decision to fire the officers was made during executive session Monday night, after which Overmann was notified of the board’s vote. Parks declined to release the voting record on that decision, saying he would release the information after talking to the attorney. Under the Sunshine Law, the vote of each board member in closed session must be released within 72 hours of the meeting.
“I hate all this turmoil,” Parks said. “But it was a board decision.”
In Monday night’s open session, the board had criticized officers for not keeping adequate patrol car inspection record. Aldermen also heard complaints that some police officers appear to be targeting patrons of Owl Creek Grille by waiting until the drivers pull out of the parking lot, then pulling them over.
Former Leadwood police officer John Rinks had made the same allegations last fall after leaving the department. At that time, several citizens backed his complaints to the Daily Journal, but would not go on record.
Rinks also had made allegations that one of the officers was mishandling evidence and might have planted evidence in at least one case against a resident. Hicks had said he was unaware of any such practices and would fire anyone caught planting evidence.
On Tuesday, Reichenbach declined to comment. Jaco would not discuss details of the issue he thought would be addressed during the 7 p.m. meeting.
However, Ulozas said several officers privately had raised the same concerns as Rinks about an officer’s improper practices. Jaco and Reichenbach were among a group of officers who shared those issues with some city officials, Ulozas said.
“And look what happened,” he added.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.