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Dover pays aquitted officer $230k in settlement

City of Dover officials will pay former police Cpl. Thomas Webster $230,000 over the next six years as part of a settlement agreement that ended in his resignation from the force after he was found not guilty of felony assault last year.

Webster will also collect his current salary and benefits until June 30, as well as his accrued vacation and compensation time.

Under Delaware law, public employee compensation is considered a public record, but Dover city officials refused to release the value of those, saying in an email, "...while we are obligated to provide the separation agreement, we should not interpret the agreement or endeavor to explain any provision of the agreement."

Dover mayor Robin Christiansen announced Webster's resignation from Dover Police Tuesday night. A release from Dover Police called it an "amicable end" to his career with the department.

A 12-person jury acquitted Webster of second degree assault in December after three days of deliberation. He had been charged after a nearby police dashboard camera captured video of him kicking an unarmed black man in the head during a stop, knocking him unconscious and dislocating his jaw.

Warning: Video contains graphic content and language. The encounter begins around 2:20.

The man, Lateef Dickerson, eventually needed surgery to repair his jaw, according to testimony from a Kent General Hospital nurse who treated him.

Under terms of the settlement, Webster will remain on paid administrative leave until the end of June and cannot contact anyone with the City of Dover or its representatives and is barred from entering police headquarters. 

The $230,000 will be paid in $40,000 increments in January of 2017 and 2018, with four more payments of $37,500 scheduled each year until 2022.

An internal affairs investigation into Webster will also cease and the result will be classified as "unfounded" and he will no longer be subject to any punishment by the Delaware Council on Police Training. He also can never be employed by the City of Dover again.

During the trial, Webster said he "wasn't intending" to kick Dickerson in the head that night, as he was searching for a suspect with a gun who had run from a fight at a nearby gas station. Instead, he said he was aiming for his torso.

"I was very scared," he said at the time, noting that Dickerson wasn't immediately responding to orders to get on the ground while he was held at gunpoint.

No weapon was ever found.

Webster's intentions were never documented in his use of force reports, which he wrote nearly two months after the encounter. “You don’t add the ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas. I put in what I thought was pertinent.”

His resignation will be official June 30.

A previous version of this story indicated that Dover City Council announced Webster's resignation.  In fact, Mayor Robin Christiansen made the announcement.  Delaware Public Media apologizes for the error.

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