The town of Colbert is no stranger to controversy with problems with the police department.
Chief of Police David Petersen has been on the job about three months.
He inadvertently became part of a new controversy surrounding that chief position with postings of photos made by one of the girls on a Facebook page.
The previous Colbert Chief of Police had problems, and he is not to be confused with those controversies.
The town was without a police department for a time until Peterson was hired for the chief position.
The photos that have caused a social media uproar have Chief Petersen sitting in his police cruiser with Colbert Police logo visible in the photo.
The chief is in a humorous pose sitting in his car with the two girls outside the police car, each making a face and a humorous pose reminiscent of old Bonnie and Clyde black and white photos.
The chief is pointing at one of the girls toward the front of his vehicle.
Each girl is pointing also with what many consider a vulgar gesture displayed on both hands
Each of the three are using the middle finger that is commonly referred to as “flipping someone the bird.”
All three are looking at the photographer and camera which looks to be located on a roof or several feet higher up than the three being photographed. The second photo causing controversy has Chief Peterson with his arms around each girl with one of the girls using the same middle finger gesture at the camera. It is reported that one of the girls may be underage. A third photo has the three in the embrace, smiling normally at the camera.
The photo included the caption “F 12 but he’s da bomb.”
The F*** actually spells the 4 letter word (typically vulgar and taboo in normal speech) which means a derogatory term against police. The caption translation could mean the police are not good but they like this one.
The phrase “F*** 12” is a regional term derogatory against narcotic officers. The caption was the girl’s wording on that photo, and not the officer’s.
One of the girls posted the three photos.
The post was only visible to the girls “Facebook Friends,” the private people approved by the girl to see her postings.
Somehow the photo posting became public resulting in the controversy and remarks about the behavior of the chief.
Some postings said he had the right to be included on private postings.
Others said that he represents Colbert, he’s in uniform, engaging in behavior unbecoming of a police officer. One area police officer’s wife made a comment that his behavior was what gave police “a bad name.”
Previously in trying to get permission to talk to Peterson, the woman who answered the phone at Colbert Town Hall first said, “It’s all going to be on TV news tonight.”
She said the council was worried about the other TV station, that “they would turn the story around.”
She said Peterson gave a full interview and explained the situation in his interview, with full approval of the council.
The call was then transferred to the Town Manager Loretta Gustavson.
She said, “The council is handling this, through policy and procedure. We are just not making any comments until something is finalized.”
Gustavson denied the interview request and confirmed that the chief gave the interview.
She said, “He’s an employee and it’s against policy for an employee to speak to the media.”
When asked why he talked to the TV station, Gustavson said sternly, “He was told to do that one. Watch that and take it from there.”
When pressed on the subject, Gustavson said, “It’s in the town handbook. He was told to specifically do the one comment.”
She said he was not allowed to give the same comment.
When Chief Petersen was contacted by phone at the former police chief’s cell phone number provided by Colbert, he said he couldn’t speak with media.
As the conversation continued he said, “By policy if I talk outside without permission, I’ll lose my job. I’m on thin ice already and I don’t want to lose my job.”
There was a concern that the media might not give a fair and impartial account of what happened or what might be said during his interview.
Petersen is believed to have then contacted a man believed to be on the Colbert Town Council to gain permission. That man on the Town Council later told Peterson he could not give an interview.
When contacted by phone, that man hung up when the interview request for Peterson was made directly by The Democrat.
Peterson confirmed again he could not give an interview after contacting that council member.
He said, “They want to wait and see if the TV station bashes me before they let me talk to too many and them bashing me. I want to, but I cannot lose my job over doing it. You know what I mean?”
He said he would if allowed and given permission and his hands were tied.
He did confirm that he is not to be confused with the previous chief.
Peterson said before the call was ended that he told them, “I’m in the position I’m in. I made a mistake. I should never have allowed the picture to be taken. I should not have allowed the picture to be taken, but I did. Just like everybody else, I made a mistake. I didn’t even know the picture was taken, until it was posted.”
Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or firstname.lastname@example.org