ELKHART — Members of the Police Merit Commission unanimously approved the promotion of a police officer to detective Monday, despite his conviction in Hamilton County on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge.
Cpl. Brandan Roundtree, who pleaded guilty to the charge in August 2017 and was convicted, was previously promoted to detective although the commission was not notified as required. The role of the merit commission is to approve all promotions, demotions and discipline in the department.
Police Chief Ed Windbigler, who is serving a 30-day unpaid suspension, promoted Roundtree in June this year.
"There was an error. It was something that fell through the cracks. That's all it was. It didn't get to them," Thayer said. "In no way was it a cover-up. It was a mistake and an error, and if you think we're free from errors you're far from the truth."
Thayer said it's not unusual for police officers with similar issues in the past to have successful careers.
"That's very common," Thayer said. "It happens all the time in any police department across the country. Our officers are human beings. They make mistakes, they pay the price for them and they move on."
As Windbigler had done previously when notifying the commission of the arrest, Thayer questioned what had happened in Hamilton County in March 2017.
"We question the whole process down there, how that arrest took place. We wouldn't have handled it that way in our community for a DUI," Thayer said, though he declined to be more specific.
Roundtree, who was hired by the Elkhart Police Department in June 2008, was never disciplined for the incident.
"For what?" Thayer said.
Police Merit Commission President James Rieckhoff said he believes the police administration — that the failure to inform the commission of the promotion was an error.
"I have no reason to believe otherwise," he said.
When asked whether punitive action might be taken towards the police department for failing to notify the commission of the promotion, Rieckhoff deferred to Mayor Tim Neese.
"The mayor is ultimately responsible for every city department, so there could be actions taken by the mayor. The merit commission simply acts on what's presented to it," Rieckhoff said.
Rieckhoff said a request for a promotion for Roundtree was submitted previously but that the department withdrew the request because the criminal case was still pending.