The California Police Department announced it has hired Kevin Morse for one of the department's open officer positions last week at the February City Council meeting.
Morse was terminated from his position with the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office in April 2019 for his involvement in derogatory posts on social media about individuals with disabilities. Morse was among a group of applicants that individuals from the CPD and two California City Council members, Lanny Ash and Bryan Lawson, selected from following an interview process.
CPD chief Daniel Hurt explained he's known Morse for a while — Morse was the chief deputy during Hurt's time with the Sheriff's Office. Hurt said he was comfortable bringing Morse into the fold because he gave Hurt a call in the weeks following his termination last year to apologize personally. This was impactful, Hurt explained, because his own son is disabled. He said this showed him that Morse hadn't meant to cause anyone harm intentionally.
"My son has autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD and epilepsy," Hurt said. "I talked it over with my wife, and we're willing to let people know that. One, it's awareness for people about autism. Two, if I believed that Kevin would have done that, I would've never hired him because I have a disabled son."
Hurt said Morse told him the interactions he had were in poor taste and were supposed to just be between friends. Hurt said he's explained to Morse he has to be mindful of what he's doing and saying, especially in regards to what is posted on social media, and the CPD has its own social media policies to prevent any similar issues from occurring.
"I love my son to death," Hurt said. "I will do anything to protect my son. Now, if I believed that he had done something intentionally to get something out and make fun of kids with disabilities, there's no way I would've hired him here. There's no way, because my son is my world."
Hurt said Morse joins the department with valuable experience, having spent time working not only with the Sheriff's Office but also with dispatch and the California Fire Department.
Hurt said with this experience in mind, it was exactly the kind of officer the department would like to bring on.
"I think he could be an asset here," Hurt said. "It'd be a shame to take all that knowledge and throw it away."
Hurt said one thing he remembers from his time in the academy is that members of law enforcement live in a "glass house," where everything they do will be seen by the public. He explained this to Morse, he said, and Hurt said he thinks Morse has learned this as a result of his past actions.
"I think he's learned from that, and I don't think he'll do that again," Hurt said. "I think he's more sincere, and it's an eye (opener) that you've got to watch what you do."
Lawson said while the Council members who ultimately hired Morse were aware of the reasoning behind his termination from the Sheriff's Office, their hiring decision was guided by the quality of his application and went through the same vetting process it would for any candidate.
"I personally believe in second chances, and I have the utmost respect for law enforcement and the job that they do, and I believe that he will do a good job for the California Police Department," Lawson said.
Ash said out of the three applicants interviewed, Morse's application materials were the strongest, and thus were why the hiring panel decided to offer him the position.
"We wouldn't have offered him a position if we didn't think he would be a good candidate for the position," Ash said.
California Mayor Norris Gerhart echoed every applicant went through the same vetting during the hiring process.
After hiring, if offered a job, he said officers have to go through further vetting requirements presented by the CPD.
"I, as the mayor of California, feel confident that we used every hiring practice we have in the past when we hired this gentleman," Gerhart said.