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Monday, April 15, 2024 — Houston, TX

RUPD officer unfairly terminated

By Ryan Gupta     6/19/11 7:00pm

The way I see it, if you believe that Officer David Sedmak's termination was entirely justifiable you're either joking, you don't know the story or you're about as sharp-witted as Rep. Anthony Weiner. Sedmak sprang into action after hearing the ominous "officer down" transmission on his radio. Disregarding the possibility of personal harm, Sedmak decided to risk himself by going into a "hot" area to help his uniformed brothers. He knew the Houston Police Department would have done the same for him. Officer Sedmak assisted in the resolution of the Greyhound Bus Station standoff and returned back to campus only to face the scorn of an administration devoid of humanity. Sedmak was terminated a month after his heroic actions. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Houston Business Journal's "Best Place to Work" for five years and running -- Rice University.
It is unclear whether Sedmak called his location into dispatch; Sedmak says he did, while university officials dispute that claim. If, in fact, no call was made then protocol was broken. Officers are expected to check-in with dispatch and not leave campus without express permission; however, Sedmak simply did what he thought was right. Sometimes bureaucratic protocols and snap decisions just don't mesh. In the realm of law enforcement, life-saving, momentary decisions have to be made and a police organization such as RUPD should understand that. However for some uncertain reason, RUPD seems to be focused solely on Sedmak's "dereliction of duty." The man did not stroll down to Bombay Brasserie in the Village for some quality naan; he spent his shift trying to save the lives of downed officers. While the breach in RUPD rules may warrant a reprimand or suspension, the decision to terminate him is unbelievable. Sedmak's presence at the crime scene was voluntary and possibly not even necessary; but he was following his instinct and ultimately trying to be a good cop. Do the rules that Sedmak broke really outweigh that decision?
Rice further defended its decision to terminate Sedmak by claiming that his departure from campus put its students at risk. However, anybody familiar with life at Rice will realize that this hollow defense is nothing more than a flailing attempt to give meaning to a meaningless decision. First, the May 7 episode took place after the conclusion of final exams and a majority of students had left campus. Those students who remained were still afforded protection by the other two officers on duty during Sedmak's shift. Second, Rice is notoriously safe. Our University isn't set in the middle of the projects, and RUPD is rarely forced to take action in order to preserve the sanctity of campus. Don't get me wrong, I believe that RUPD serves an instrumental role in ensuring that our campus continues to be one of the safest in the country; however, most would agree that the absence of one officer for one hour does not compromise campus security -- especially considering that other officers were on duty at the time. If anything, Rice's desperate outcry about compromised safety during that one hour erroneously paints Rice as a very unsafe place to the public.
Relations between students and RUPD have become strained over the past 12 months. The alcohol crackdown has become a central policy debate at Rice, and RUPD's increasingly stern actions have drawn the ire of many students. Furthermore, many of the students aware of this situation are bemoaning the termination through social media, and the outcry would undoubtedly be much greater if this incident had occurred with school in session. Confidence in our police department seems to be declining, and this latest questionable decision will certainly not help that trend. The dynamic between the student body and campus police is an entirely separate discussion; however, it is obvious that the growing schism and distrust between the two sides is not optimal for campus safety.
Had Sedmak's decision to go rogue saved the life of an officer on May 7, Rice would have undoubtedly tried to jump into Sedmak's national limelight and seize some of the credit being doled out by the national media. Plastered on the front of Rice's website would have been a predictable headline, "Who Knew: RUPD officers that protect Rice's campus could also protect Rice's city?" However, without a Hollywood ending to Sedmak's actions, RUPD administration was unable to come down from their Lovett Hall perch to see how heroic his actions were. Ironically, Rice's decision to fire Sedmak has yielded an entirely different type of national press, and Rice has to do some serious damage control to protect our otherwise pristine image. Unfortunately, no matter how Rice PR tries to frame this issue, RUPD administration will be on the losing side of the debate. The students know they are wrong. The public knows they are wrong. The media knows they are wrong. Rice must overturn this preposterous termination and return Sedmak's job -- if he even wants it back anymore.

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