Nepotism and misuse of city property are among some of the allegations made against Rolla's police chief, according to a statement released by Chief Mark Kearse Friday.
Nepotism and misuse of city property are among some of the allegations made against Rolla’s police chief, according to a statement released by Chief Mark Kearse Friday.
Kearse was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this week after a Rolla Police Department employee filed complaints against the chief, according to City Administrator John Butz. The initial complaint was made July 21, right before Butz took a scheduled vacation.
Butz said he found out about the statement after Kearse had already posted it on the Rolla Daily News Facebook page and has given it to at least one other Facebook page.
According to Kearse’s statement, “the allegations against me are not criminal. They are policy violations.”
Kearse said there were four allegations made by the RPD employee, who he identified as Capt. Jason Smith.
The allegations, Kearse said, include “nepotism” and “undo influence on his son’s career” related to the chief’s son, Luke, applying for a promotion within the department.
Luke Kearse was hired under Chief David Pikka, Mark Kearse said. Under Mark Kearse’s term, Luke Kearse applied for a promotion to become sergeant, but Kearse said he was not promoted. Luke did became the SWAT team leader while his father was chief.
“Misuse of city property” is another allegation made. This complaint refers to Kearse’s alleged use of RPD funds at a private business he also runs, the Fugitive Run Mud Obstacle Course.
Kearse owns the property where the obstacle course is located. The property also has been used by the RPD and other police departments for training.
According to Kearse, he and city administration agreed that up to $500 of RPD equipment could be used to improve the course.
“I had between $200 and $250 worth of equipment on my property out of the $180,000 obstacle course I built with my own money,” Kearse said. “As I started building it I decided to make it bigger and open it to the public.”
Kearse stated bribery is the fourth allegation made but did not seem to know the details regarding this complaint.
Butz said Friday it had still not been determined who would conduct the investigation. “We definitely want to start the investigation next week,” Butz said.
Kearse stated he trusts the city and Butz to investigate the allegations. “If they find me guilty then I am,” he said.
Kearse said the only “negative thing” in his 32-year career in law enforcement was related to using an unauthorized weapon in 1986 when he was asked to respond on duty to an officer being shot. This was during the beginning of a hunt for then-fugitive John Brown.
This past week when the city officially announced that Kearse was placed on administrative leave, Kearse also submitted his plans to retire effective Sept. 30.
Kearse said he told his staff about seven weeks ago that he was planning on retiring in May 2015 at the latest, but that it could possibly be sooner.
“It saddens me to have this dark cloud over my retirement,” Kearse said.
“Over the last two years I have started several businesses so that I could afford to retire and have been truly working seven days a week. I’m burnt out,” Kearse said.
In addition to the Fugitive Run, Kearse also operates a beach at the quarry and has an appraisal company and a camping/RV park.
When Kearse was informed by Butz of the allegations made against him, Kearse said he would not retire until an investigation occurred.
Kearse said he is proud of his 32 years in law enforcement, and that his father, who retired from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was who got him interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement.
Kearse was hired by the RPD in 1982. He spent a short time with the patrol before returning to the RPD. He became police chief in April 2007.
Among the things he is proud of in his career with the RPD include starting the first gym at the police station, starting the Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS) program as well as the street crimes and narcotics units, writing several fitness and training policies for the department, training new officers, being a team leader of the RPD SWAT team for over 10 years until he became chief and starting the department’s Facebook page.
Kearse said he loves police work 51 percent of the time and hates it the other 49 percent because of the violence, death, injuries and negativity associated with crime.
Kearse’s complete statement unedited is below:
"Chief Mark Kearse, here is my official Retirement press release and statement on the allegations made against me. First, the retirement. I’m very proud of my 32 years in law enforcement, my father retired from the Missouri State Highway Patrol after 36 years of service as Chief operator. This is what got me interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. I started with the RPD in 1982, and then went to the MSHP and back to RPD, as I love working in my home town. I’m retiring to cut back on the hours I work each week at Kearse Appraisal Company, The Fugitive Run mud obstacle course, The Fugitive Beach and our camping and RV park we are in the process of doing.
"Some things I’m most proud of in my career. I started the first RPD gym with my equipment in a small room of the department in 1985, now we have a state of the art gym thanks to the drug dealers who paid for it. Wrote the first RPD fitness policy and twelve event fitness testing in 1986, wrote the first official three month training program for new officers and was in charge of training the new officers on the department, started, trained and was team leader of our SWAT team for over ten years until I became Chief and had to turn it over, started the Volunteers in Police program, the Street crimes unit & our narcotics unit to go after the serious criminals and drug dealers, the RPD Facebook page, the 95%, 4%. 1% rule and the three pillars, you need to go to our web page to read them. I had a great career, worked with a lot of dedicate people both in and out of the department to serve the community. I always said I loved police work 51% of the time and hated it 49% of the time, dealing with the violence, death, injuries and all the negativity , but in fact I would not change a thing.
"The allegations against me are not criminal they are policy violations according to the City of Rolla. First, let me say that I trust the City and Mr. Butz 100% to investigate the allegations, if they find me guilty then I’m, you will not find a more fair and honest man than John Butz our city administrator.
"In my 32 years I have only had on negative thing in my file and zero official complaints, the one thing in my file is for packing and unathourized weapon. This occurred when I was off duty and was called back to duty because one of our officers had gotten shoot and they needed me to respond, this was in 1986. I took my mini 14 rifle as we did not have long guns at that time. This was the start of the John Brown man hunt, I was one of two officers that entered the room where we thought the shooter was and I used the unauthorized weapon to do so. I would do it again.
"I will try to keep this short. Over the last two years I have started several business so that I could afford to retire and have been truly working seven days a week, I’m burnt out. So about seven weeks ago I privately told my Staff that I was going to retire at the latest May of next year and maybe much sooner. In L.E. when a Chief or Sherriff is going to leave the power struggle begins for the people wanting to take this position.
"The word got out that I’m retiring and the department starts talking and worrying about who will be the next Chief. So several weeks ago I walked into Jason Smiths office, he is the person I promoted from sergeant to a staff member and then Captain, (he is the one making all the allegations against me). He is at his desk with a red face and will not talk to me. I try to talk to him and finally he says, I hear some people are going to try and cut my throat and people are going to go to city hall about me to make sure I don’t get chief, etc., this is they cleaned up version. I asked him what he was talking about and he would not say. I left, in looking into this I found out that several people did not want Jason to be the next Chief and rumor had it they were going to ban together to support someone else, they said they were going to try to get me to not support Jason, I had no knowledge of this until after his outburst in his office. I went back to Jason and told him I had nothing to do with it, but you could tell he did not trust me from that point on. John Butts goes on vacation and during this time I tell the MSHP, PCSD, MS&T police etc. that I will be retiring and I’m going to tell my boss John Butz that day. I have a meeting set with Mr. Butz and when I get there the city attorney is in his office. I go in and tell them I’m retiring and they say we have allegations against you, but if you want to retire on September first we would not have to investigate them, that way there would not be a dark cloud on your retirement. I said in very strong words I will not retiring until I’m investigated and I demand an investigation.
"The allegations as told to me.
"1. Nepotism; My son Luke Kearse was hired under Chief Pikka and the State Statue states that now as Chief I cannot promote my son. Luke was a Sergeant in the Marines in the infantry and was deployed to Iraq served our country in battle and I’m very proud of him. Since I knew I was retiring we had a Sergeants promotion process and I allowed Luke to put in for it. He received 9 out of 10 number one scores from the other Sergeants as first pick and his evaluation scores were the highest of the other three candidates. As I advised my staff I could not promote Luke until I talked with and got permission from The City administrator, the city attorney and the Mayor, Jason Smith was present when I said this. Mean time I got the allegations against me, this was not a violation as I did not promote him.
"2. Undo influence on my son’s career; Luke has been with the RPD for 12 years and cannot promote, during this time Luke was on the SWAT team and we needed a new Team leader, I had people come to me including Jason Smith saying Luke is the best person to be team leader. I called John Butz and we got the city attorney on the phone and I told them about the SWAT team leader position, his qualifications etc., they said they thought it was fine to let him be SWAT team leader. Luke later mover from road officer to an undercover narcotics position with the South Central Drug Task force after being interviewed by the MSHP board. During this time I started the street crimes unit and transferred Luke and another officer out of narcotics for this unit. I contacted John Butz and the city attorney on all but one of these moves, getting permission and told it was fine to do so.
"3. Misuse of city property. I started the Fugitive Run Mud Obstacle course a few years back and during the last four years let and wanted the RPD and other police departments use my property for training. We have had regional SWAT training at the course three times with up to 200 SWAT cops here training, we have used my place for RPD training and SWAT training, RPD has used it for their SWAT testing, etc. So I called John Butz and advised him that I could use some cargo nets and rope to improve the course, we agreed that I could use up to $500.00 a year of RPD equipment. I had between $200 and $250 worth of equipment on my property out of the $180,000 obstacle course I built with my own money. The plan was to have many training events out there with RPD being the sponers for all types of SWAT and tactical training. PS. I started the obstacle course for the RPD SWAT team and was paying for it myself on my property because I know that the city did not have land for it and it would never get done and because of the cost if the city had to pay for it. As I started building it I decided to make it bigger and open it to the public. I also have several of my targets still at the RPD range and some $2000 worth of my gym equipment at RPD that is used for training by MSHP, PCSD, the Forest service and RPD.
"4. The last allegation is bribery; I can’t wait to find out what this one is and I’ll let you know.
"In closing, I’m not perfect, who knows maybe some of these allegations are right. I treated the RPD like it was my family and how I thought it should be run to make it better for all. I loved working for the RPD and trying to make it a better place for the team/employees, it is a very professional department.
"It saddens me to have this dark cloud over my retirement. The interviews on the allegations will start next week and I will let you know the outcome good or bad for me because you all deserve to know what the Chief of Police has done.
"Thanks. Still Chief Mark Kearse."