Dover police master corporal cleared in conduct policy case

Deputy Chief of Police Maj. Marvin Mailey, left, questions Master Cpl. Dave Gist, who was cleared of conduct policy violations. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson

Deputy Chief of Police Maj. Marvin Mailey, left, questions Master Cpl. Dave Gist, who was cleared of conduct policy violations. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson

DOVER — A Dover Police Department master corporal and president of the agency’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding accusations of a suggested work slowdown in January due to fallout from the assault case of Cpl. Thomas Webster.

Master Cpl. Dave Gist, a 19-year Dover Police member, was charged with two standards of conduct policy violations, which were found to be unsubstantiated by a Criminal Justice Council trial board that convened at Dover Police Department on Monday. The process took just less than 3½ hours to make a determination.

Cpl. Gist said he believed officer safety within the community — with some people angry at law enforcement — was threatened after Cpl. Webster was found not guilty of assaulting a man he was arresting in December 2015, a sequence that included a jaw-breaking kick to the head recorded on dashcam video.

Thus, Cpl. Gist said he counseled officers at a Jan. 13 meeting and while on the street to meet monthly Dover Police Department minimum performance standards of making 15 traffic arrests, 10 criminal arrests and five city ordinance violations. He was concerned that a high number of citations during a volatile time between the community and its police force could spark violence against law enforcement.

Citing the personnel nature of the proceedings, Cpl. Gist declined comment after the verdict was returned. Beforehand, he approved making the hearing open to the public. Dover attorney Jim Liguori served as his representative.

Police contended that Cpl. Gist urged officers to go no further than the minimum number of arrests per departmental policy, and that he went outside the chain of command when instructing a platoon shift to do so. Deputy Chief of Police Maj. Marvin Mailey produced statistics showing three platoon patrol officers’ number of traffic stops dropping significantly after the Jan. 13 meeting.

With police administration not prone to supporting officers in precarious situations, according to Cpl. Gist, there was concern of members becoming embroiled in Internal Affairs investigations and putting their careers in peril.

While three Dover Police patrol officers testified they were uncomfortable with Cpl. Gist’s believed suggestion to slow writing traffic citations, their platoon sergeant advised them to follow his direction only, which was to continue their proactive approach and not consider numbers.

The defense maintained that a perceived slight of Police Chief Paul Bernat at a December 2015 Christmas party prompted a retaliatory Internal Affairs investigation; Cpl. Gist was master of ceremonies of the party and failed to invite Chief Bernat to address the gathering, among other issues.

The snub was unintentional, Cpl. Gist said, and occurred because of his inexperience of leading the event for the first time. According to Cpl. Gist, a frosty relationship with Chief Bernat developed to the point of the chief not speaking to him for two months, including walking silently past him in the hallway and offering only a salute.

Describing his client as a “thorn in the side” of Chief Bernat, Mr. Liguori said the action against him was a means of neutralizing him. Cpl. Gist is at the top of the list for a promotion to sergeant, which wouldn’t have been possible with guilty findings on the charges against him.

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