ANDERSON — Anderson Police Chief Jake Brown recommended the termination of a police officer after a former dispatcher filed a complaint of sexual misconduct.
The Anderson Board of Public Safety on Monday placed APD officer Taylor Sanderson on unpaid leave pending a disciplinary hearing to take place within 30 days.
Sanderson didn’t attend the Safety Board meeting on the advice of the Fraternal Order of Police and his attorney.
Sanderson, a former Daleville officer, was hired by Anderson Police Department on June 5, 2018. He worked as a patrolman for Daleville from Oct. 19, 2015, to Feb. 1, 2018.
In a resignation letter to Daleville Police Chief James King and William Walters, who was the town council president, Sanderson did not provide a reason for his abrupt resignation which he stated was effective Feb. 1, 2018. The letter was dated Feb. 7, 2018.
According to Daleville town records, Sanderson was verbally reprimanded for failure to follow orders and then written up for failure to follow orders. The town’s attorney, Joe Rhetts, said a third incident occurred prior to Sanderson’s resignation that could have resulted in possible disciplinary action.
On Jan. 30, a former Madison County dispatcher contacted The Herald Bulletin about a complaint she filed against Sanderson on Oct. 17, 2019. She alleged that Sanderson touched her inappropriately while they were both working.
The woman said Sanderson reached around her back and under her armpit to touch her chest as she was sitting at a computer while working at the dispatch center. The Herald Bulletin generally does not name people who report being victims of an alleged sexual incident.
“He kind of stopped and said I’m sorry I touched your boob and then did it again in the exact same motion,” she said. “I’m just really bothered by it. Not to mention if you are comfortable to do that to me in a work environment, what are you comfortable doing to people on the street?”
The woman said she was a dispatcher in Madison County for almost 10 years prior to the incident and felt so uncomfortable she left her job.
“I called today (Jan. 30) to get a copy of the police report and they said there is nothing there for me to have when I know I made the complaint,” the woman said.
She said she received a letter from APD on Saturday that said her complaint against Sanderson was sustained by an investigation and the department’s disciplinary policy will be applied.
On Monday, Safety Board member NiCale Rector made the motion to place Sanderson on unpaid leave. If he files an appeal within five days to request a hearing and prevails, he would be entitled to back pay.
Brown said a citizen complaint was made last October and an internal investigation took place. He said the results were forwarded to the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he received the APD report approximately one month ago from a deputy chief.
He said it was a report of an investigation for possible criminal charges against Sanderson.
“I read the complaint and report and viewed a video,” Cummings said. “I didn’t see anything that amounted to a crime.”
During the Safety Board meeting, Brown said he is seeking termination of Sanderson and if Sanderson doesn’t request a hearing before the Safety Board within five days he wants the officer terminated.
Mike Anderson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the union will be requesting a hearing on behalf of Sanderson.
Anderson said it was “unjust” for Sanderson to be suspended without pay when the prosecutor’s office decided not to file any criminal charges. He asked what allegations Sanderson was being charged with, if it was neglect of duty or violation of rules.
Brown said Sanderson will be provided the documentation before the hearing on what led to the request for his termination.
Local resident Brad Hope asked why the Police Department was investigating an incident that took place in a county-owned building.
Brown said the complaint was sent to the Police Department by the county agency, Central Dispatch.
He said the administrative staff at Central Dispatch said they were confident APD would conduct a thorough and fair investigation.
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said his department typically investigates alleged crimes within county-owned buildings like the dispatch center, but APD also has the authority to investigate the crimes.
Mellinger said he was unaware a crime had been reported at the dispatch center. “I do have serious issue with not being informed, regardless of who does the investigation,” he said.
Brown said Sanderson was on paid leave pending the results from the prosecutor’s office and placed on desk duty while the internal investigation was completed.
“I placed him on paid leave approximately 10 days ago,” Brown said. “If I had the authority I would have placed him on unpaid leave.”
City Attorney Paul Podlejski said the complaint against Sanderson was substantiated following the internal investigation.
“Because of the seriousness of the allegations, the administration decided to suspend him without pay,” he said. “There has to be a hearing within 30 days. We are requesting termination.”
Rector said by suspending Sanderson without pay it would encourage people to move the case forward quickly.
She didn’t want Sanderson to be sitting at home for an extended period of time being paid while he was awaiting the hearing, which could be extended by either side.
“I want the hearing within 30 days,” Rector said.