Members of the Le Mars Civil Service Commission listens to testimony and reviews submitted evidence during the hearing regarding former Le Mars Police Officer, Jeremy Singer.
(Le Mars) — The Le Mars Civil Service Commission heard testimony today (Monday) regarding the termination of former Le Mars Police Officer Jeremy Singer.
Singer was dismissed from his duties as a police officer when social media postings that were thought to be negative, and racist, and a determent to the police department. Singer had asked to have a closed session hearing, but the legal counsel for the civil service commission along with the city counsel determined it was within the law to hold an open session hearing. Le Mars Police Chief Kevin Vande Vegte was the first witness to testify at this morning’s hearing. Vande Vegte went through the timeline as to when he was first alerted to the social media postings, and
decided to take the action of placing Officer Singer on administrative leave.
Le Mars Police Chief Kevin Vande Vegte is seen offering testimony as a witness in the Jeremy Singer hearing.
Vande Vegte says he consulted with several others within the law enforcement community, including Plymouth County Sheriff, Mike Van Otterloo to ask for their opinion regarding the matter. Vande Vegte testified that he thought it was best to terminate Officer Singer partially because of the political environment surrounding police departments across the nation. Especially,
since some of the postings were negative towards the African-American black community.
Also testifying this morning was Emma Pritchett of Le Mars, who was the first person, according to Vande Vegte, to bring the objectionable social media posts to the attention of the police chief. Pritchett said during her testimony that she didn’t believe the posts were at all humorous, and she thought it was a bad reflection on the Le Mars Police Department. Pritchett
says she was “concerned” about the postings, and not appropriate. She continued to say she doesn’t believe the postings were appropriate for anybody, regardless of whether or not they are from a police officer. Defense attorney Justin Vondrak showed some history of social media posting placed by
Pritchett that were negative towards blacks, and Asian-Americans. Attorney Doug Phillips who is representing the city’s interest in the matter, asked Pritchett how old she was when posting the objectionable material. She responded by saying she was 15 at the time.
Plymouth County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Rick Singer also took the stand.
He commented that he was told by community people that they couldn’t trust him because he was a “Singer”. Rick Singer was asked if he was related to former police officer Jeremy Singer. Deputy Rick Singer says they may be because of the last name, but he indicated it would be long distance relations, and he wasn’t certain if he could explain if there was any relationship. Rick Singer testified by saying he offered assistance to a
community person who responded by saying, “You’re a Singer…I thought you was fired.” Prior to the lunch break, Jeremy Singer testified and indicated many of the social media postings were done before he became a police officer with the Le Mars Police Department. He shared that the postings were meant
to only go to a “private group” on Snap Chat, and they were never intended to be made public.
Former Le Mars Police Officer Jeremy Singer takes the witness stand and offers testimony during his hearing.
Jeremy Singer says he no longer associates with the people within the private social media group on Snap Chat, and he credits his wife as being the reason why he stopped associating with those individuals.
Jeremy Singer was asked if he hates anybody, of which he responded that “I do not hate anybody.” One area the city attorney team brought up was a conversation that Le Mars Police Chief Kevin Vande Vegte had with Assistant County Attorney Amy Oetkin. According to testimony offered by Vande Vegte,
Oetkin was concerned that she may not be able to prosecute any minority offenders that were arrested by Officer Jeremy Singer, because of past social media postings indicating he (Jeremy Singer) hates black people.
Attorney Doug Phillips was serving in the capacity of Consulting Counsel for the city. He indicated during his closing remarks the two questions that must be answered.
Phillips then proceeded to inform the City’s Civil Service Commission that Police Chief Kevin Vande Vegte’s decision was not arbitrary. That in fact, Vande Vegte had consulted with several people before making his final decision to terminate Jeremy Singer.
Phillips says the social media postings attributed to Jeremy Singer “were not funny, and they were not private.” Phillips says you cannot turn on the television at night without finding somebody discussing in some aspect of police culture and police behavior all across the country. Phillips shared with the civil service commission what the people of this community are probably thinking.
Justin Vondrak is the defense attorney for Jeremy Singer. He says many of the questionable material posted on the social media attributed to former officer Jeremy Singer was prior to the time Jeremy Singer was hired by the Le Mars Police Department. Vondrak informed the civil service commission that there is no place within the city code of ethics showing a person can be terminated from their job based on behavior before becoming a city employee.
Although Vondrak admitted the postings may be interpreted to be in bad taste, and could be considered to be wrong, but it doesn’t deserve to be fired or terminated.
The Le Mars Civic Service Commission will convene again on Thursday, November 19th at 9:00 a.m. at the city council chambers to render and deliver their decision.