Meridian Star

December 11, 2013

Police officers' termination hearings delayed

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — From Staff  Reports

    No dates have been set for the appeal of termination hearings of two former Meridian Police Department officers.

    During Tuesday's meeting of the city's Civil Service Commission, the Commission, attorneys for the city as well as former MPD officers Dean Harper and Don Hopkins agreed to separate pre-pre-trial sessions later in the month. Attorney Bill Ready Jr., who is representing both Harper and Hopkins, said the city had not submitted all requested information necessary to prepare for his clients' hearings.

    In late October, it was reported that Harper had been let go from his duties with the Meridian Police Department. He served as chief of detectives of the Criminal Investigations Division, as well as issued press releases with the daily crime report and dealing with local media.

    Sources told The Meridian Star that Harper was fired from his job. Police Chief James Lee said he couldn't comment, as it was a personnel matter. Mayor Percy Bland also did not comment.

    Attempts to reach Harper were unsuccessful at the time, but a Facebook post from his wife, Tiffany, confirmed that Harper, a 23-year veteran of the police department, had been fired and no reasons for the termination were given.

    Hopkins, an 18-year-veteran of the MPD, was fired in August following an incident in which he is said by the department to have broken 11 policies and procedures concerning pursuit and the use of deadly force.

    According to records from the Meridian Civil Service Commission, Hopkins is said to have, among other charges, ignored orders to stop the pursuit of a suspect's vehicle, prompting charges of insubordination, and firing his service weapon at a moving vehicle.

    The incident in question occurred on Interstate 20/59 early on the morning of July 17, when Hopkins was reportedly trying to stop and apprehend a suspect allegedly involved in a property crime. The city alleges Hopkins engaged in a pursuit when it was not necessary, failed to cease the pursuit when ordered and after he did eventually stop the pursuit, re-engaged in the chase.

    The city also alleges that Hopkins pursued the suspect in an unmarked unit that was not equipped with sirens. The city said the crime in which the suspect was accused was a property crime, a crime not committed in the presence of Hopkins and therefore not one in which Hopkins was justified in engaging in a pursuit and discharging his weapon. The city also contends that Hopkins had alternative avenues of action he could have taken.

    Hopkins was placed on administrative leave with pay on July 18 and then on July 30 was notified by Lee he was placed on leave without pay pending the outcome of the internal investigation. The city contends in commission documents that Hopkins was not cooperative during the internal investigation. On Aug. 5, Hopkins was notified of his termination and the charges that led to that determination by the city and the MPD.