Suspended Dover police officer returns on paid leave

 

DOVER — A police corporal acquitted of assault this month in a 2013 incident in which he kicked a suspect in the jaw will return to the department today on paid administrative leave, Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat said in a statement Saturday.

Cpl. Thomas Webster IV, 42, had been suspended without pay since being indicted in May. According to department policy, he will have to undergo psychological testing before he can return to active duty.

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Thomas Webster IV

It is expected to be at least several weeks before he resumes his work with the department. He will also have to undergo some remedial training for policies that have changed in the past months while he was suspended.

Exactly what Cpl. Webster will do once he’s cleared for duty has not yet been determined, according to police spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman.

“The Dover Police Department has already completed its internal investigation and dealt with this incident independently of the concurrent criminal proceedings,” Chief Bernat said in a statement. “As a law enforcement officer, Cpl. Webster is afforded rights under state law, and the Dover Police Department must abide by the law as well as its obligations under Dover Police Department directives. While the Dover Police Department has treated this incident with the utmost seriousness, Cpl. Webster’s right to return to his job after having been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing must be honored.”

Cpl. Webster, a 10-year veteran of the Dover force, was found not guilty on Dec. 8 after six days of testimony and deliberations. He was indicted May 4 for a felony second-degree assault charge for a confrontation with Lateef Dickerson on Aug. 24, 2013. Cpl. Webster was responding to reports of a large fight and a possibly armed suspect, and as he apprehended Mr. Dickerson, he broke his jaw with a kick.

The incident was first investigated in November 2013 by the Dover Police Department, which found Cpl. Webster to have acted in a manner not aligned with police policy. He returned to duty in June 2014.

A first grand jury, in March of 2014, did not indict him. The case was reviewed earlier this year and taken to a second grand jury.

The not-guilty verdict two weeks ago angered many members of the community. Several citizens have publicly urged city council in the past two weeks not to keep Cpl. Webster, who is paid $68,398 annually.

La Mar Gunn, president of the Central Delaware branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was disappointed but not surprised Cpl. Webster is returning to the department.

Stressing he believes most members of the Dover Police Department work well with the black community, he said he thought it would be best “for everyone” if Cpl. Webster did not come back to the agency.

Mr. Gunn said he is continuing to press the Attorney General’s Office and has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The city confirmed shortly after the verdict a civil lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware on Mr. Dickerson’s behalf had been settled but few other details were available.

A statement sent out by the police department Saturday noted both state law and agency policy require due process, including a hearing before a board of captains, before any punishment relating to Cpl. Webster’s job status could be handed down by the department.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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