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Ashland claims just cause to fire suspended police chief in notice of hearing

Former Ashland Police Chief Gabe Edwards
City of Ashland
Former Ashland Police Chief Gabe Edwards


The City of Ashland has laid out its reasons why it wants to fire its suspended police chief, Gabe Edwards, in a notice of hearing.

The City’s Board of Aldermen previously announced that it will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, to determine if it will fire Edwards.

Edwards has been suspended since July 17. City leaders have not said why they put Edwards on leave. Scott Young was picked as the interim chief on July 27.

The notice -- dated Nov. 21 -- claims “the grounds for the just cause termination” of Edwards includes accusations of:

  • "Having committed any act, while engaged in the performance of your duties, that constitutes a reckless disregard for the safety of the public or another law enforcement officer;"
  • "Have caused a material fact to be misrepresented for any improper or unlawful purpose;"
  • "Have acted in a manner for the sole purpose of furthering your self-interest or in a manner inconsistent with the interests of the public or the Board of Aldermen;"
  • "Have violated a written established policy."

The written notice claims Edwards “improperly accessed restricted law enforcement records by falsifying the need for that restricted information (and then publicly distributed that information).” That portion of the notice claims:

  • Edwards added his wife and a friend to the department’s list of POST certified officers at a time when neither individual was a member of the police department.
  • Edwards allowed an officer to remain on active duty after seeing them “suffer a mental breakdown that would cast serious doubt upon the officer’s fitness to serve in an armed capacity.”
  • He made racially insensitive comments

Edwards’ lawyer called his removal illegal in an email last week, a day after the Board of Aldermen announced the hearing date after a closed session.

“The reason for this meeting is to fix the illegal and botched removal of  Chief Edwards from his position of Police Chief, which occurred on July 17, 2023,” according to a Nov. 22 email from Matt Uhrig. “The City locked him out of City buildings; took away his access to computers; had him turn in his service weapon; and, appointed a new police chief.”

According to state law, a police chief can be removed after a written notice is issued to the chief no fewer than 10 business days before the meeting in which their removal is to be considered. The law indicates that a chief can be removed by a two-thirds majority vote from its governing body.

The Board of Aldermen reviewed a memo last week from Callaway County Prosecutor Benjamin Miller during a closed session on Tuesday. The memo states that Miller felt Edwards could be charged with misuse of official information for getting information through the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System for non-work-related reasons.

However, Miller wrote in the memo that he had not filed charges because the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control had not submitted a probable cause statement. Miller said he asked the patrol for a probable cause statement on Oct. 4 but never received one.

In a Nov. 14 statement, City Administrator Kyle Michel referred to the timeframe as an "unusual delay."

Edwards filed a lawsuit against the city on Oct. 23 saying that the city removed him from the job illegally because he criticized the mayor on social media. Several days after the lawsuit was filed, the city released a statement saying that officials were aware of the lawsuit but clarified that Edwards was still employed.

The attorney for the City of Ashland moved the case to federal court earlier this month. The notice of removal stated Edwards’ claims include alleged violations of federal laws. The city filed a response to the federal lawsuit on Tuesday, asking the judge to deny Edwards' request to be reinstated.

In a separate lawsuit against the city, a former Ashland police officer claimed in court documents that Edwards was placed on leave three days after he reported alleged misconduct by the chief of police. Edwards was not explicitly named in the lawsuit; however, the timeframe aligns with Edwards’ tenure as police chief.

That lawsuit claimed that the officer reported that Edwards had listed his wife and another one of his friends on the Ashland Police Department roster submitted to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Program, despite neither being employed by the City of Ashland. Documents allege the pair were included on the roster so they could conceal-carry a gun.

Court documents from the officer's lawsuit also allege that Edwards accessed restricted information through the Criminal Justice Information System “without a law enforcement purpose” and then leaked the information publicly under a second, anonymous Facebook account.

The lawsuit also claims Edwards used racial slurs towards Black employees and allegedly offered someone nude photos of an employee’s significant other.

Article Topic Follows: Ashland

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Ryan Shiner


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