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Waterloo officer appeals demotion in road rage incident

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WATERLOO – A Waterloo police officer who was acquitted in a 2016 road rage incident is appealing his demotion.

Corbin Payne lost his lieutenant’s bars and was demoted to the rank of officer for allegedly violating department rules — including using police resources to obtain information about the other driver — in an off-duty incident involving a delivery driver.

A closed-door hearing with an arbitrator to address Payne’s appeal is slated next week.

Payne was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges after he confronted an employee of a Chinese restaurant about his driving in a parking lot June 12 at Kimball and Ridgeway avenues.

During his criminal trial in January, Payne said the delivery driver was speeding and almost struck a car his wife was driving. Payne, who was a passenger, said he put out his hand to hold the other driver back when the driver exited his vehicle. A jury found him not guilty.

Following the trial, Payne was interviewed by a police captain as part of an internal affairs investigation in January and met with Chief Dan Trelka on the matter Feb. 10.

In a 13-page disciplinary report issued Feb. 13, Trelka said Payne’s conduct met the threshold for termination because of violations of rules concerning unbecoming conduct and unsatisfactory performance and because of prior incidents. But Trelka opted for demotion because of Payne’s 21 years of service. The demotion was effective Feb. 21.

In the report, Trelka took issue with the fact Payne confronted the driver instead of calling dispatchers to send on-duty officers. He noted Payne had been drinking and didn’t identify himself as a police officer until after the matter became physical.

Trelka also wrote Payne’s courtroom testimony that he was trying to keep the driver in the vehicle after seeing him make furtive movements was contrary to police training that calls for making a person exit if the officer believes there could be a weapon in the vehicle.

The chief also criticized Payne for leaving the scene before on-duty officers arrived and then calling dispatchers to obtain information about the delivery driver.

At trial, Payne said he left in an effort to de-escalate the situation. In the report, the chief countered Payne hasn’t been to annual de-escalation training since 2013.

Trelka suggested Payne’s phone call to dispatch could have violated the Drivers Privacy Protection Act, a federal law that prohibits the disclosure of personal information compiled by motor vehicle departments. According to the disciplinary report, the Iowa Department of Public Safety suspended Payne’s access to such records after learning of the incident.

Payne allegedly admitted to the chief he used police databases to find information on the delivery driver on several occasions, according to the disciplinary report.

The disciplinary report also mentions two incidents in 2010. In one, Payne was suspended without pay for using unnecessary physical force against a youth in a holding cell at the police station in April 2010. The report alleges the contact was similar to that in the 2016 incident.

The second incident involved an argument at a Clear Lake bar in May 2010. In that case, Payne was allegedly rude toward Clear Lake officers, refused to provide identification, refused to follow their instructions and threatened to file a complaint, claiming he knew the department’s chief.


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