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Firing of Fort Smith officer over accident report stands

by Thomas Saccente | August 1, 2021 at 4:02 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- A police officer who was fired earlier this year for his role in the falsification of an accident report was denied the opportunity to return to his job.

The Fort Smith Civil Service Commission voted 3-3 on a motion to reinstate Michael Dillon Coder without back pay during a hearing Friday. This means Police Chief Danny Baker's decision to terminate Coder stands.

Commissioners Matthew Garner, Marty Shell and Charolette Tidwell voted in favor while Cole Goodman, Alex Sanchez and Chris Chaney voted against. Commissioner John Walker was absent.

Coder's attorney, Derick Allison, said although he and Coder were disappointed with the deadlock, the former officer will decide how to proceed after they evaluate his legal options. One option they will consider is appealing to the Sebastian County Circuit Court.

Coder was fired April 13 after not stepping forward regarding the falsification of a report in which he was involved, according to documents, and audio and video files the Police Department released in May related to the investigation into the matter.

He had backed a department vehicle into a dumpster on private property at 900 S. R St. during a Feb. 12 police operation. However, the accident report was intentionally misdated Feb. 16, a fact reported by another officer, Lauren Hendricks.

Sgt. John Blake Little, the supervisor who directed the false report be made, resigned March 29 while under investigation, according to department spokesman Aric Mitchell.

Little reportedly said he wanted to keep Coder from getting into too much trouble, as well as keep himself out of trouble, according to the investigation material. Hendricks received a written reprimand for not reporting the incident sooner.

Hendricks wrote in her March 1 complaint to Baker that Little called her Feb. 12 after the police operation and told her they were going to complete the accident report the next week because Coder "has a lot going on and has some stuff he might be in trouble for," and Little didn't want "to put that on him right now."

Hendricks in her complaint wrote Little told her in person Feb. 16 they were going to report the accident took place that day instead of Feb. 12, according to the complaint. He also provided a different set of circumstances surrounding the accident.

Print Headline: Firing of Fort Smith officer over accident report stands


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