KENNETT, Mo. -- During the Kennett City Council meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Roger Wheeler Sr. read a self-written letter commending the Kennett Police Department for their work in recent weeks while being scrutinized by national media.
"I want to commend all of you for your professional service over the recent weeks," Wheeler said.
The city was in the national spotlight last month when Heather Ellis, a 24-year-old Louisiana schoolteacher and Kennett native, was on trial for an incident in January 2007 at a local Walmart store. Ellis was accused of assaulting police, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace in connection with a dispute inside the store with employees and other customers.
A rally in support of Ellis was held days before the trial, with supporters marching through Kennett.
Before the jury could reach a verdict, Ellis agreed to a plea deal under which she'd be convicted of resisting arrest and disturbing the peace and avoid a felony conviction.
Wheeler noted that he had made a point to recommend that Kennett police officers "take a back seat" and "be as inconspicuous as possible" during the recent demonstration march and rally hosted in the City of Kennett.
"The intent was to avoid any possible direct confrontation with the marchers and participants," Wheeler said.
The Kennett police officers' "spirit of cooperation and commitment" was "never in question," according to Wheeler.
"It was my choice to handle a very delicate situation in this manner," Wheeler said.
He noted that although the trial is over, the results may not reflect a better image for the Kennett Police Department.
"Please know, I believe you have demonstrated a level of professionalism that would hold its own with any department in the country," Wheeler said. "Just keep on doing what you are doing the way you have been trained."
He added, "I am honored to tell the world that I am the mayor of Kennett ... and will stand behind the police officers, who daily protect and defend the city."