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7-27-2011 and updated 7/29/11


Sheriff suspends Cpt. Steve Johnson; Johnson then announces 'retirement'

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A longtime captain in the Platte County Sheriff’s Department was suspended with pay earlier this week.

Steve Johnson, captain of the road patrol for the sheriff’s department, was suspended from duty on Monday, The Landmark was able to confirm through a variety of means and sources this week.

After The Landmark's print edition hit the street on Wednesday, the sheriff's department on Friday morning confirmed Johnson had been suspended with pay. Also on Friday, the sheriff's departmetn said Johnson has since announced his "retirement" effective Aug. 2.

Sheriff's department officials have yet to confirm, but The Landmark has learned that Cpt. Mark Owen, who most recently has headed emergency preparedness for the sheriff's department, will assume duties as captain of the patrol division.

Cpt. Erik Holland of the sheriff’s department, who heads the administrative division, on Tuesday afternoon had confirmed that a department employee has been suspended but declined to identify that employee.

“We’ve had an employee suspended. I won’t confirm or deny that it was a captain,” Holland said when asked about the situation by The Landmark in a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon.

Holland said the department will be releasing more information pursuant to the Missouri Sunshine Law after a 72-hour period from the time of the personnel action has passed.

Holland said “the matter that it is concerning is not completed yet.”

That comment may indicate that a resignation from Johnson could be forthcoming. (UPDATE: The Friday morning confirmation by the sheriff referred to Johnson's impending departure as retirement).

“Since it is an ongoing personnel matter, I can’t say anything else at this time,” Holland remarked when questioned as to the reason for the suspension.

Johnson has been with the sheriff’s department since the mid-1980s and has served as a captain for several of those years. Prior to joining the sheriff’s department, Johnson was an officer with the Platte City Police Department.

A situation--perhaps similar in nature--recently developed in the Platte City Police Department, where veteran Sgt. William Babbitt was recommended for termination by the chief of police, did not appeal the action and then issued a resignation.

Police Chief Carl Mitchell said that the recommendation for termination of Babbitt’s employment was made because the sergeant “violated regulations.”

A citizen complaint led to the start of Babbitt’s troubles. That complaint was made during the course of an investigation into a case involving the theft of signs from the parking lot of the Running Horse Ranch and Home Store on Running Horse Road.

Police officials said at the time that Babbitt was not a part of any criminal activity, but during that probe a citizen came forward and offered information about Babbitt in another incident, police department officials said.