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Spencer police chief fires officer, demotes sergeant

SPENCER — A long-time employee of the Spencer Police Department was fired May 1 and another was demoted on the same day after an internal investigation by Chief Michael James.
James fired Officer Steve Bard, who had worked on the town’s police force for 13 years. James also demoted former Sgt. Wayne Comer, a 15-year veteran of the department, from sergeant to police officer I, including a nearly $3,900 pay cut.
James said he does not comment on personnel matters. Town Manager Larry Smith confirmed that both Comer and Bard appealed James’ decisions.
“After review of the appeals and details, I found no reason to overturn the chief’s decision in either case, as they were both well-founded and reasonable decisions,” Smith said.
In Bard’s termination letter, James said Bard was fired for numerous policy violations, including:
• Stopped a motor vehicle on March 16 without reasonable suspicion. Bard failed to call in the traffic stop as required and failed to activate his remote audio.
• Failed to promptly obey orders on March 12 and March 19 directing Bard to calibrate breath alcohol sensors.
• Violated department policy regarding unbecoming conduct and professional image while sending text messages on or about March 27.
• During a pre-disciplinary conference, Bard admitted that information he had provided in a March 16 statement was untruthful.
Bard could not be reached for comment.
Comer was demoted for disciplinary reasons. No other information about the action was available.
As a sergeant, Comer was making $37,866 a year. In his new position, he earns $34,000.
The police department is interviewing candidates for Bard’s former position, Smith said.
Bard and Comer had worked together for years. In 2003, they were off-duty and working as security guards at a Spencer nightclub when a fight broke out inside the bar and spilled out into the parking lot.
Several people in the parking lot began shooting. Comer shot and killed a man who was firing a handgun into occupied vehicles after the man, Julian Chiles Davis, 23, refused to Comer’s order to stop.
Comer and the other off-duty and on-duty Spencer officers at the scene that night acted appropriately, Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly said in 2004 after the SBI completed a six-month review of the incident.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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