City reaches settlement with former Rockford officer Oda Poole

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD — One of the officers involved in the Mark Anthony Barmore shooting has reached a financial settlement with the city after a years-long legal battle over his employment with the Rockford Police Department.

The city and Oda Poole, on Monday, reached a settlement worth $700,000. The agreement comes eight years after Barmore was shot dead in the basement of Kingdom Authority Church downtown.

Barmore, wanted on a domestic violence warrant, was believed to be armed when he was being pursued by Poole and Officer Stan North. Barmore reportedly wrestled for Poole’s service weapon and was shot during the struggle.

Poole was placed on administrative leave immediately after the shooting and then suspended by Police Chief Chet Epperson for violating three rules of the department’s Code of Conduct. Among those rules were Rule 9, which states officers must be efficient in their performance of assigned duty. Epperson also decided that Poole violated Rule 2 by impeding the department’s effort to achieve its goals, discrediting the police department; and Rule 49, committing an act contrary to good order and discipline or constituting a violation of any of the provisions of the Rules and regulations of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, the Rules and regulations of the Rockford Police Department, the written Orders of the Rockford Police Department.

Poole, 45, was fired in 2011. An arbitrator ruled in 2012 that Epperson fired him without cause, a decision that placed him back on administrative leave. The city appealed that decision and the case was then hung up in the state appellate system as Poole fought to be reinstated to the force.

Meanwhile, a wrongful death lawsuit against the city was settled in 2014 for $1.1 million. In 2016, a jury awarded various plaintiffs, including 10 children present at the church daycare when Barmore was shot, $360,000 in a ruling that stated Poole and North acted recklessly.

In total, the shooting cost the city more than $2 million, including legal fees and payments to expert witnesses.

The Barmore shooting was the fourth time Poole used deadly force as a member of the Rockford Police Department. He also fired at a suspect in 2002, while working as an officer in Washington, D.C. Each incident was ruled justified.

The city mulled a few settlement options. One possibility was to reinstate Poole to active duty with back pay. However, under the agreed-upon terms, he will remain on administrative leave until he completes firearm recertification. After the 40-hour training is complete, he will retire in good standing.

Poole and his family will be insured through the city’s health plan for 10 years. In addition to back pay, he’ll receive $41,320.89 in pension arrearages from July 15, 2011.

Poole previously received a pension refund of $37,000. His salaries for the last three years are $73,657, $78,220, and $78,132, respectively.

“As a city and a community, we have been dealing with this situation since 2009,” Mayor Tom McNamara said. “I am happy to be moving beyond it and working towards building our community relationships and making our city more united and stronger.”

The agreement must be approved by the Workers Compensation Commission.

Poole has elected not to speak to media. His wife, a Rockford attorney, released a statement in 2010, challenging the verbiage of the police department’s code of conduct.

“The rules of conduct are so vague, general and non-specific, that they fail to inform any intelligent person as to what the alleged violations are,” Robin-Babcox Poole wrote. “Training, tactics, and policies or procedures are not referred to in the administrative charges against Oda. Officer Oda Poole and Officer Stan North bravely performed their professional responsibilities according to their training and acted consistently with the rules and regulations of the Rockford Police Department. Had they failed to attempt to apprehend Mr. Barmore, they surely would have been accused of not properly fulfilling their responsibilities to the community and Rockford Police Department.”

Stan North has since retired from the Rockford Police Department. R.

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