Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Officer Thomas Fees Keeps Getting Paid After Arrest

Tulsa Police Officer Thomas Fees has been suspended with pay for three weeks after being accused of pointing a loaded gun at employees of a bar. Viewers have asked why, in this budget crisis, is he getting a paycheck when other officers are not?

News On 6 viewers questioned Fees' paid suspension again after a recent story on a police officer who earned a Purple Heart and has been laid off. People wonder why Fees can't be suspended without pay and that salary given to someone else.

It's all about due process.

On the one hand, you have Officer Thomas Fees, who's been arrested and charged. Witnesses say he got unruly in a bar three weeks ago, and when employees had to physically remove him, he pointed a loaded gun at them.

He's been charged with pointing a firearm and carrying a firearm under the influence. Fees has been suspended with pay. His employment records show he was suspended in 2005 for two days for being confrontational and three days in 2006 for trying to sell a drug used to make meth.

So, why not just suspend him without pay?

"It's not that simple because even though he's been accused, he's still afforded, just as every other person, due process," said Captain Jonathan Brooks of the Tulsa Police Department.

In a case that involves a felony, the city's legal advisor says you can't suspend someone right away with no pay because that's taking disciplinary action from the very beginning. They must wait until the employee has been bound over for trial at a preliminary hearing.

If that happens, the city can also begin the firing process.

On the other hand, you have a guy like Scott Osborn who served 10 years in the Air Force, became a police officer, was shot by a drug runner and awarded the Purple Heart.

He's been laid off almost four weeks. Some argue the city would be better off with someone like him getting a paycheck than Fees.

"Him being paid, yes, money is money but the fact is, he doesn't have a gun or badge, and he is being paid but is required to stay at home," Brooks said. "He can't even show up on premises based on the suspension with pay."

Department leaders say citizens can trust them to police themselves and do the right thing, once the time is right.

Officer Fees' attorney says they are doing their own investigation, and they expect him to have a strong defense to the charges.

His preliminary hearing hasn't been set yet and could take months. He'll keep getting paid until that time.
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