Bellevue police chief reinstated a year after receiving ‘no confidence’ vote from union

Bellevue police chief reinstated a year after receiving ‘no confidence’ vote from union
Mark Elbert

The Bellevue police chief will be back on the job later this month, a year after he received a no-confidence vote from the Bellevue police union and was placed on leave.

Mark Elbert will be reinstated as chief of police on Wednesday, according to a press release sent out Tuesday by the city’s attorney, Patrick Sullivan. Elbert will be using vacation time for a “previously scheduled event,” so his first day of work will be Sept. 20, the release said.

Elbert has been paid more than $100,000 and has received full benefits and health insurance from the city since he was placed on leave.

Elbert asked to be put on leave in September 2017 after members of the union voted 72-1 saying they had lost confidence in Elbert, citing a pattern of “dishonest and deceptive conduct.”

That night the union put out a press release making several allegations against the chief. Among those allegations were that the chief instructed members of the department to deceive other members of the department and that he had tried to coerce union members to change the results of qualifications testing and evaluations.

The union said it had audio recordings of the chief instructing a member of the department to hide information from other department members and the city.

Elbert said at the time the allegations were fabricated and included “gross mischaracterizations” but asked to be put on leave.

Elbert’s attorney Ted Boecker issued a statement Tuesday that said the chief is grateful the “extremely taxing process” is over.

“Despite months of leaks and attempts to disparage Chief Elbert’s character by certain parties, he respected the process, fully cooperated with inquiries and allowed the investigation to continue without personal public comment,” the statement said. “Although the investigation drug on much longer than Chief Elbert ever imagined, now that there has been a final resolution, he looks forward to returning to work.”

The chief’s statement noted that many of the allegations raised by the union were reviewed by the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, and the commission determined there was no merit to the complaints and his actions were within his authority as chief.

In May the commission ruled that there was insufficient evidence to permanently ban Elbert from law enforcement.

In copies of the recordings obtained by The World-Herald, Elbert can be heard agreeing to allow a sergeant who had been seeking special accommodation to remain on an eight-hour shift and not have to answer his phone after hours.

In exchange, the sergeant can be heard agreeing to drop the formal request he made to the city and not to tell his lawyer or the city why it’s being dropped.

The city’s release said it’s not “the policy or practice” of the city to release information “regarding personnel issues, including the disposition of any disciplinary investigation.” But it added that “leaks of information” by a third party were full of “inconsistencies, lies and misunderstandings of the facts.”

“Chief Elbert is a decorated police officer and has risen through the ranks like very few have,” Sullivan wrote in the city’s statement. “His management style is not for everyone, as is the case of every leader, but he as served professionally and in the best interest of the officers of this city, sometimes at the detriment of his own well-being.”

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