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    29 Feb 2016

    Delaware officer who kicked black suspect in head resigns, gets $230,000

     To Kentrell Sewell, it was barely worth notice that Thomas Webster IV had resignedfrom the Dover Police Department.
    Webster, a Dover police corporal, was acquitted of a felony assault charge late last year after a police dashcam captured him kicking a black man in the head during a 2013 arrest.
    "He didn't take responsibility. No jail, no nothing," Sewell said Wednesday while seated for a trim at a downtown Dover barbershop. "Now, if it's not going to happen in Dover, he's just gonna kick somebody somewhere else." 
    Sewell's reaction to Webster's resignation signifies the lingering distrust still simmering in Dover after the August 2013 encounter between Webster and Lateef Dickerson, whose jaw was fractured by the kick.
    Webster, indicted by a second grand jury after a first declined to issue charges, faced trial in late 2015. After being found not guilty of felony assault, he returned to the department's payroll while on administrative leave, even as community activists and African-American leaders urged the city to fire him.
    Late Tuesday, Dover announced Webster would separate from the force by June 30. His day-to-day work for the department is over immediately and a settlement agreement between Webster and the city says he "shall not enter the Dover Police Department building or communicate with the City of Dover or its representatives."
    He remains on administrative leave until his separation. 
    A settlement agreement commits the city to paying Webster $230,000 over six years. Through 2022, he will get annual payments of roughly half his current $68,398 salary.
    The settlement document also says an internal affairs investigation concerning Webster that formally began on Jan. 19 will be closed down. At the same time, Webster is forbidden from seeking any other job with Dover city government.
    The city started negotiating the settlement in mid-December, shortly after the trial ended, Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen said. 
    Everyone involved in the discussions considered “what was in the best interest of the community,” Christiansen said, although he wouldn’t elaborate.
    He did say that the group of residents and activists who called for the police department to dismiss Webster played no role in the eventual outcome. 
    The agreement says nothing about Webster’s ability to get a job with another law enforcement agency, only that he will not be able to work again at the Dover Police Department.
    He can seek employment wherever he would like, I guess,” Christiansen said.
    City Councilman Tim Slavin said Webster's departure was a necessary prologue in rebuilding trust between residents who felt the episode was a case of police brutality.
    "We all, as a city, need to heal from this horrible event. There's no one thing that will bring the city to closure, but this is a first step," Slavin said Wednesday.
    Fred Calhoun, president of the state Fraternal Order of Police Delaware State Lodge, said he had not spoken to Webster or city officials about Webster's resignation. "No one wants to give up their job, to resign, or to retire," Calhoun said. "But I honestly think he looked at what's best for his family." 
    Had Webster stayed in the department, Calhoun said, "I think people would eventually have moved past this. They would have accepted the officer for the job he does. A large portion of the community wasn't opposed to Officer Webster. The squeaky wheel gets the oil here."
    African-American leaders said they were glad to learn Webster was leaving Dover's police force, but they worried the door was open for him to continue a law enforcement career with another department.
    "I do have a concern because of the fact that he’s voluntarily resigning, whether or not he’ll be able to serve in other municipalities. I’m hoping he will not. I was really hoping he would be terminated," said the Rev. Rita Page, pastor at Star Hill AME Church.
    She said his resignation would do something to rebuild trust between blacks in the community and the city.
    "I think it’s sending a message to the police that the community is not settling for anything. We’re not settling for injustices," Page said. "We’re going to keep the pressure on until justice is served.”
    A federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Dover and Webster was dismissed in January after a settlement agreement was reached with the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware. 
    Details about the terms of the settlement have not been publicly disclosed by any of the parties.
    After the city refused to release settlement documents under the Freedom of Information Act, The News Journal filed an appeal to Attorney General Matt Denn’s office. The office is still considering the case, and in early February asked for additional time for legal review.
    La Mar Gunn, president of the Central Delaware Chapter of the NAACP, said he was excited to hear of Webster’s departure because it means Dover could move forward “in the spirit of brotherhood that we’ve been working on here the past several months."

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