To the editor:

It appears that the Madison Police Merit Board made two mistakes in regard to Officer Josh Abbott: Hiring him in 2006; and not firing him after repeated disciplinary violations in 2010.

Now their two lapses of judgment have resulted in seven felony charges against Officer Abbott, and the dismissal of charges in 63 cases in which he was involved, by the Jefferson County prosecutor.

Sometimes red flags concerning a potential hire are not readily apparent at the time. Abbott may not have had any criminal record at the time he was hired by the board. Your reports on his recent arrest and the violations of discipline that occurred in 2010 have not mentioned that.

But the actions for which he received a six-month suspension without pay, and extended probation, in that year, should have been enough to tell the board they had made a mistake, and to cause them to dismiss Abbott. Unfortunately, by a vote of 3-2, they opted to retain him on the force. Big mistake, in my opinion.

This has not only resulted in the dropping of charges in 63 criminal cases in which Abbott was the principal arresting officer, or in which his testimony would have been crucial, but is a cause for considerable embarrassment for the city administration and the Madison Police Department.

"Hopefully the board will this time take the action it should have taken four years ago."

Wayne Engle