Police chief reprimands officer for talking to newspaper

January 12, 2018 11:11:28 AM



Columbus Police Department's former community relations officer has apparently been reprimanded for confirming her job status with the media and threatened with suspension without pay if happens again. 


The Dispatch received a photo via text of what appears to be a written reprimand of Officer Rhonda Sanders for violating CPD General Order No. 303.4 and the city's social media policy. Sanders violated those policies, according to the document, "by giving The Commercial Dispatch a statement concerning her transfer back to patrol." The document calls that information "a personnel matter ... not to be discussed with the public per city policy." 


A source who wished not to be named texted a Dispatch reporter a photo of a large portion of the reprimand document Thursday night. It also indicates newly appointed CPD Chief Fred Shelton gave Sanders an "oral order" on Wednesday not to discuss her transfer with anyone outside of the department. 


Sanders, who had served about five years as community relations officer, confirmed when contacted by The Dispatch on Wednesday she had received written notice "out of the blue" two days earlier she had been reassigned to a patrol shift. She declined to comment further about the matter on the record. 


The Dispatch reported Sanders' reassignment in Thursday's edition, indicating her new role on patrol served to remove her from her full-time community relations duties.  


However, the city, through Public Information Officer Joe Dillon, issued an email to local media Thursday evening disputing the report. The statement claims Sanders volunteered to step down from community relations duties in light of her reassignment. It also included a small excerpt from a memo Sanders reportedly emailed to Shelton this week indicating she could not continue her role as community relations officer while also working patrol. 


The Dispatch this morning formally requested Sanders' entire email, as well as the exact wording of the General Order 303.4 Sanders violated. City officials provided neither by press time. 


By law, the city has up to seven working days to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. 


The Dispatch could not reach Shelton for comment by press time. 


Dillon said he could "neither confirm nor deny" Sanders' reprimand. 


"Any personnel issue, if there was any taken, is always confidential," Dillon said. 


Although The Dispatch does not have a copy of Sanders' email to Shelton, multiple sources who have seen the document said Sanders indicated she had "served the CPD well" as community relations officer. The letter also conveyed Sanders' intent to notify neighborhood watch groups and "business owners that strongly support CPD" of her transfer, according to those sources.