INDEPENDENCE, Mo. --
In a 49-page document filed in response to a grievance against the Independence Police Department, an arbitrator found a police force that is understaffed and overworked.
The arbitrator claims the police chief unfairly punished a sergeant who was trying to do his job the best he could with limited resources.
"We knew from the beginning this punishment was unjust and inappropriate," said lawyer Steve Bukaty, who represented Sgt. John Bullard in his grievance hearing against the Independence Police Department.
Bullard was suspended for 40 hours without pay after his superiors reported him to the police chief, claiming his detectives weren't filing enough cases with prosecutors. Bullard said his detectives had too many cases to work all of them, and the ones not filed weren't prosecutable.
"We have a new police chief," Bukaty said. "The department had written at least three different memos going into great detail about how undermanned the detective bureau was. When they recommended Bullard be disciplined, no one brought those memos to the chief's attention."
Bukaty said the lack of resources is preventing detectives from closing cases faster, and the arbitrator agreed Bullard shouldn't be punished.
"The problem is they didn't have enough people to do the work," Bukaty said.
To better understand the situation, KCTV5 compared the Independence Police Department with the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department. Both cities have similar populations, yet KCK has a police staff of 370 compared to 200 for Independence and 45 detectives compared to 19 in Independence.
The arbitrator believed Independence officials unfairly targeted Bullard, saying "the evidence reasonably suggests that this was a result-oriented investigation to destroy the distinguished career of a decorated police officer.”
"I think there was some retaliation," Bukaty said. "John (Bullard) had just testified against them in another case they lost.
Police Chief Tom Dailey told KCTV5's Matt Stewart he was unable to talk about the case because the department is appealing the decision, plus it's a personnel matter. But he does plan to address the issue of staffing to the media sometime in the next day or two.
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