Former Carroll Police Officer Sandy March listens to testimony in her termination appeal hearing Tuesday morning. The city’s Civil Service Commission upheld her firing for insubordination.
Former Carroll Police Officer Sandy March listens to testimony in her termination appeal hearing Tuesday morning. The city’s Civil Service Commission upheld her firing for insubordination.

February 21, 2018

If Sandy March — a recently fired Carroll police officer who had patrolled the town’s streets for 18 years — is reinstated to her post, other officers would grow increasingly insubordinate, the police chief said during March’s termination appeal hearing on Tuesday.

“I believe it would cause some morale issues,” Chief Brad Burke said. “There would be quite a bit of tension between the officers and Officer March. ... There would be officers who would feel they could do anything they wish without repercussions.”

The city’s three-member Civil Service Commission sided with Burke and unanimously rejected the appeal.

Burke fired March, 46, on Jan. 16 after she failed to tell residents who had not shoveled snow from their sidewalks to clear them, as required by city ordinance.

She had been on probation for nearly a year — as part of a so-called “last chance agreement” — in which she faced termination if she violated department policy.

March agreed to the probationary period in February 2017 when Burke threatened to fire her for shirking her duties. A review of her 2016 work showed she wrote about half as many reports as the average officer and initiated about one-fifth of the traffic stops as the average, according to a disciplinary letter Burke authored.

March wrote seven traffic citations of the more than 1,100 issued by the department over the course of that year.

Other officers complained that March was rarely the first to respond to reports of crime. The first to respond is the primary officer for the case, and those who arrive later are considered backups.

“In reviewing your personnel file, I find numerous instances where you were counseled or reprimanded for being late for or missing training/court and low performance levels among other things,” Burke wrote in the letter.

March said in Tuesday’s appeal hearing that she switched to an earlier shift to avoid being paired with former Officer Jacob Smith, who had complained to Burke about March’s sluggishness in responding to calls for service.

“I struggled with the early hours,” March said of the 6 a.m. starts of her new shifts. “After 14 years on a different shift it was quite a struggle for me.”

In April 2017 — about six weeks after the start of her probationary period — March was late for work. She was late again about a month after that and was suspended for 30 days in June.

“Officers felt that favoritism might have come into play,” Burke said Tuesday, “and that they would get a different discipline than what was occurring” with March.

That feeling among officers became apparent in early January, when Burke and Sgt. J.J. Schreck told officers to tell residents to shovel the snow from their sidewalks.

Officer Roy Janssen, the longest-serving officer of the department at 24 years, refused to comply.

“He was not going to complete the tasks unless officer March completed the tasks,” Burke said.

Janssen and March were reprimanded, and March was fired several days later.

March said in the appeal hearing that she tried to comply with the order, but that it was difficult to locate snowy sidewalks because of blowing snow. She further was occupied with an arrest and a vehicle to tow.

As for other officers’ gripes about March, “there’s always some sort of complaint, some sort of whining that happens on a regular basis” at the department, March said.

She dismissed the complaints about her work, insisting that other officers are guilty of the same.

“I do hope that you come to a conclusion that’s going to suit everyone in the end,” March said to the Civil Service commissioners.

It was the first time in at least 20 years that the commission considered an officer’s termination appeal. The commissioners swiftly decided to affirm March’s firing.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the sidewalk issue,” commission Chairman Phil Markway said. “To me, that wouldn’t take much time.”

March has 30 days to appeal the ruling to district court.

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