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Village Council

Hearing process complete; Meister demoted

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On Monday, Aug. 27, Yellow Springs Police Officer David Meister was officially disciplined by Village Manager Patti Bates.

Meister was demoted from corporal to patrol officer, a change in rank that comes with a reduction in pay, and put on a six-month performance improvement plan, according to a memo to Meister from Bates. Meister had been promoted to corporal at the beginning of the year.

The discipline was in line with a revised recommendation from YSPD Chief Brian Carlson, who initially proposed that Meister be disciplined in a memo to Bates in May.

YSPD Sgt. Joshua Knapp had investigated the three incidents from March through May in which he found Meister’s dealings with possibly intoxicated people operating vehicles, and one involving juveniles in possession of marijuana, to be in violation of the YSPD’s policies.

In her memo to Meister, Bates wrote that while local officers may use discretion, they must do so within “reasonable limits” and without any favoritism. She also noted that Meister “failed to ensure public safety” in three of the incidents in question because he did not make sure the individuals arrived safety at their destination, which could be a potential liability for the Village. Bates also referenced previous violations in Meister’s personnel file.

Reached for comment this week, Meister said he was disappointed in the discipline, but has not yet decided whether he will appeal the action in court. 

Previously, Meister challenged the past violations in his file, saying he was unfairly targeted by others in the department for minor mistakes. He also defended his actions during this year’s incidents, saying he was disciplined for doing the kind of low-key, compassionate policing the community says it wants. Meister reaffirmed both beliefs this week.

“What I’ve done for community policing is what villagers have been asking for,” Meister said.

Meister said that though he feels marginalized in the department, he is cautiously optimistic that conditions may improve. And while he wishes the situation were handled differently, finding the initial disciplinary recommendation “heavy handed,” he also says he wants to move forward.

“We’ll see what the future holds,” Meister said. 

Bates enacted the final discipline after receiving a pre-disciplinary hearing report last week from Xenia Chief of Police Randy Person. Person found that there were grounds to impose discipline in two of the three incidents in question (Carlson withdrew one incident before the hearing, preferring to handle it internally.)

Person noted in his report that police discretion is not absolute and that “an officer must insure both the safety of the community and the safety of the individuals detained when dealing with potentially intoxicated individuals.”

Meister requested the pre-disciplinary hearing after receiving notice of Carlson’s proposed discipline in May. Person was called in as a mutually agreed upon hearing officer, and the hearing took place  Aug. 3.

Previously, the hearing was postponed for nearly a month while Meister and his attorney attempted a mediation process with the Village. Earlier this summer, news that Meister might be disciplined sparked community controversy and an outpouring of support for the popular local officer, a nine-year veteran of the department and Yellow Springs resident. In July, Council Member Judith Hempfling proposed that the Village decline further funds to Village Solicitor Chris Conard to pursue the discipline, but Hempfling’s motion did not reach a vote as no Council member seconded the motion.

Carlson’s revised recommendation, issued the day after the May memo but not previously made public, withdrew a proposed three-day suspension without pay, a 12-month probationary period and a last-chance agreement, according to Bates’ memo. A compromise proposal offering similar terms was rejected by Meister in July.

In disciplining Meister this week, Bates additionally waived a one-year probationary period that usually accompanies a change in rank, her memo noted. According to Bates, Chief Carlson will not immediately repost the position of corporal, for which Meister may consider reapplying after six months. Mesiter was also reassigned to work shifts concurrent with Carlson’s.

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