The Herington police chief said a former police officer fabricated an incident with a McDonald’s coffee cup involving an expletive and a pejorative “as a joke.”
Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday said in a news conference that a police officer at the center of the case is no longer with the department. Hornaday had originally claimed in a Facebook post that a McDonald’s employee wrote “(expletive) pig” on a coffee cup given to one of his officers, and that it was “a black eye” on Junction City.
“This is now, absolutely, a black eye on law enforcement,” Hornaday said in the news conference.
The 23-year-old officer had been with the department for about two months and fabricated what happened “as a joke,” Hornaday said. An investigation by Hornaday and McDonald’s determined no restaurant employee wrote the statement.
The officer had previously been a military police officer with the U.S. Army and lives in Junction City. He resigned from the police department, leaving it with five full-time officers. Hornaday declined to name the officer because it is a personnel issue.
“It’s not a matter of us not wanting to tell you who it is, because we have no reason whatsoever to protect the former officer,” he said.
Hornaday said the case has been discussed with Dickinson County attorney, but he doesn’t expect criminal charges.
The original public post to Hornaday’s private Facebook page has either been deleted or is no longer public.
The McDonald’s restaurant owner had previously said video refuted the claim that an employee wrote the statement.
“In the investigation (by Herington police and McDonald’s), we have found that McDoanld’s and its employees did not have anything whatsoever to do with this incident,” Hornaday said. “This was completely and solely fabricated by a Herington police officer who is no longer employed with our agency.”
The city of Herington held a special meeting Monday afternoon for an executive session to discuss non-elected personnel matters.
Hornaday said the incident was “an obvious violation of that public trust.”
“The investigation that I conducted showed that this was meant to be a joke,” Hornaday said. “However, we can see that how something so serious can get so out of control very, very quickly. The most important thing that could have been done and should have been done in this scenario would be to come forward immediately ... however, unfortunately that was not done.”
The officer ultimately confessed to the incident, Hornaday said. Hornaday said he thinks the incident will be used in law enforcement academies in the U.S. as an example “of what not to do.”
“Integrity is the one and only sole trait of a police officer that you cannot allow to be damaged,” Hornaday said. “Once you damage your integrity, you’re done. You will not work in this profession ever again.”
“What I do not want to happen here is for the American public to look at this situation and call into question the integrity of any other officer in this country,” Hornaday said.
The Herington Police Department appears to have deleted its Facebook page, which was still available Sunday night but not available Monday evening.
The Kansas Attorney General advises that computer data is included as public records under the Kansas Open Records Act. A state of Kansas social media policy for state government agencies requires social media pages to comply with public records retention legal requirements.