Columbia police union claims city spent $500,000 on wrongful termination of Rob Sanders

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia Police Officer's Association says the police department and city spent more than $500,000 of taxpayer money to wrongfully prosecute an officer accused of assault.

The CPOA says its initial Internal Affairs report cleared Rob Sanders of any wrongdoing after a 2011 incident in a police department holding cell.

Rob Sanders was charged with third-degree assault for shoving Kenneth Baker in the cell. One year later, Chief Ken Burton fired Sanders for using excessive force despite the report.

The police association says Burton's termination of Sanders was unjustified since the Internal Affairs report stated how Baker had "violently attacked" several Columbia police officers and had been injured in a fight he started.

CPOA says the report and Sanders' testimony would have negated Baker's claim but also cleared Sanders of wrongdoing.

Instead of clearing Sanders, the city paid Baker $250,000 to cover up its mistake, according to the police association.

"By firing him, they exposed liability to Baker and they couldn't defend themselves," said CPOA executive director Dale Roberts.

After that payment, the city spent $8,000 to have Sanders' K-9, Fano, boarded and then sold the dog for $1 to a small Missouri police department.

CPOA says Sanders is now owed more than two years' in back pay and benefits after a judge found him not guilty Tuesday morning.

Sanders told ABC 17 News he wants his job and Fano back, but he will still have to go through the personnel advisory board before that happens.

"The city would be smart if they called [Sanders] tomorrow and asked him to come back to work on Monday to skip a lot of grief and expenses because like I said, they're racking up a big bill," said Roberts.

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