|Waynesville police chief confident in school officer despite 2008 arrest
|By: Darrell Todd Maurina
|Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 11:43 pm
|WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (March 6, 2009) — Waynesville Police Chief Bob Carter says he has full confidence in his newly hired school resource officer, even though the officer left the Rolla Police Department last September after being arrested for trespassing at the home of his estranged wife’s parents.
“My criminal history that I did the records check on said he’s clean, I can tell you that, or he wouldn’t be one of my officers,” Carter said. “I will not hire you if you have a felony or any pending charges.”
Carter said Officer Shawn C. Hedge was hired by the Waynesville R-VI School Board in a special Sunday night school board meeting and commissioned as a Waynesville policeman on Monday.
As a school resource officer, Hedge is paid by and primarily assigned to work in the Waynesville schools. However, as a commissioned law enforcement officer, he carries a firearm, wears a badge, has arrest authority, and reports to Waynesville police on law enforcement matters.
Hedge is also responsible for supervising a school security guard, Carter said.
“(Hedge) has to follow their regulations and standard operating procedures (at the school), and the same way, he has to follow mine,” Carter said.
Finding the right person to fill the school resource officer job has been difficult and the position has been vacant for months. Carter said school and law enforcement officials both agreed that Hedge had unusually good qualifications in both school and police work, noting his background teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and work as a substitute teacher.
“He was a DARE officer for Rolla Police Department, so he knows how to intermingle and work with juveniles and open up to them,” Carter said. “(School resource officers) have a closer connection or relationship with the students in the facility. They can relate in a controlled environment.”
Hedge spent seven years in the Rolla Police Department, two of them as a DARE officer, and also worked as a police detective for that department. His career in Rolla ended after an incident that led to his arrest last September for trespassing at a home in Jerome where his wife’s parents lived. Hedge was going through a divorce at the time and Carter said the arrest happened during a child custody dispute for violating an “ex-parte” order, commonly called a “no contact” order.
“It was an arrest for an ex parte; he went in to pick up his kids for visitation,” Carter said. “He had the right to go there and get his kids, but when you start arguing, you violate the ex parte.”
At the time, the Rolla police chief told the Rolla Daily News that Hedge had resigned for personal reasons while the department was conducting an internal investigation, but had been an “exemplary officer.”
Carter concurred with that evaluation of Hedge’s work.
“A thorough background check was done by us and I’d trust him with my kid,” Carter said. “There was only one arrest … It has been settled and everything has been taken care of on his part and her part.”
Shawn Hedge and his wife Amanda first entered divorce court on Oct. 1, 2008, when Amanda Hedge filed for divorce. According to online court records, that case has not yet been completed and no documents have been filed by either party in the divorce case since October. The case is scheduled for review by Associate Circuit Judge Ralph Haslag next month.
The trespassing case was a misdemeanor, Carter said, and it’s not clear from online court records that Hedge was ever actually charged by the Phelps County prosecutor with the incident for which he was arrested.
Nothing in court records indicates he’s been convicted or found liable for anything in Phelps County other than a small-claims court case in 2005 in which Hedges and his wife were assessed $1,100, and Carter said a National Crime Information Center shows there have never been domestic violence charges or other felonies filed anywhere against Hedge.
“I assure the public that I will not hire an officer with this agency who has any felony criminal records,” Carter said.
While publicly accessible online court records indicate no felony charges or convictions against Hedge, he has had at least four requests for “ex parte” orders filed against him.
On Aug. 15, 2008, an unidentified person listed as an “ex-spouse” sought an order of protection against Hedge with a child protection hearing scheduled on Aug. 25, but the case was dismissed by both parties on Aug. 18.
On Sept. 2, 2008, an unidentified person sought an order of protection against Hedge and an adult abuse hearing was scheduled on Sept. 15 that included a request for a full order of protection. An extended ex-parte order was issued that was to be reviewed in September 2009, but was instead dismissed by both parties on Jan. 21.
An earlier petition for protection was filed by an unidentified person on July 29, 1997, prior to Hedge becoming a Rolla police officer, and granted by a circuit judge the next day. A mutual full order of protection was issued by the judge on Aug. 5, 1997, against both Hedge and the unidentified accuser that remained in effect until July 31, 1998.
That order apparently expired uneventfully, but another petition was filed on Sept. 16, 1999. An adult abuse hearing was held on Sept. 28, 1999, with both Hedge and the unidentified accuser agreeing on temporary custody, visitation and child support as well as agreeing to dismiss their request for a full order of protection.
Since the name of the person claiming to be a victim and accusing another person of abuse warranting an ex parte order doesn’t appear in publicly accessible court records, it’s not always possible to verify who sought the ex parte orders, but the child custody arrangements cited in the 1999 ex parte order are cited in a divorce case filed by a previous wife of Hedge who petitioned for divorce on Sept. 20, 1999, years before Hedge was hired by the Rolla police force. Court records show that Hedge agreed on Sept. 28, 1999, that he would “not abuse, threaten to abuse, molest or disturb the peace” or “stalk” the woman to whom he was married at the time. The judge gave primary custody to Hedge’s wife and ordered Hedge to pay child support, with visitation allowed. Proceedings in that divorce case continued for a year until the end of 2000, with additional complications related to child custody issues running until 2006.
While the 1999 divorce case was initiated by Hedge’s wife at the time, Hedge himself had initiated divorce proceedings against her two years earlier, filing a divorce petition on June 11, 1997. That case led to a child custody agreement in November but both Hedge and his wife agreed to dismiss their divorce case on January 26, 1999. Hedge’s wife filed for divorce less than nine months later.
Carter cautioned that obtaining an ex-parte order requires a lower standard of proof than a criminal charge, and can often be used as a deterrent to prevent problems from happening during a divorce.
“The law has changed on those; it used to be you could only get one if you were married or living together. Now you can get one on your neighbor,” Carter said. “It’s just to protect each party and the attorneys highly advise that, and we do too. That gives us the right to go in and make an arrest if there’s a violation.”
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