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Sex scandal nothing new for Fort Madison police
Can you sleep with your boss’ wife and get away with it?
That’s was the age-old question debated in coffee shops, at water coolers and in City Hall over the last several months in the Mississippi riverfront town of Fort Madison, Iowa.
In June, the question was finally answered: No.
The Fort Madison Civil Service Commission ruled that Police Officer William Bowker, who was openly carrying on an affair with the police chief’s wife, had been properly fired. Last month, Bowker appealed his termination to the commission and is awaiting a verdict.
Back in February, Bowker figured it was a no-brainer when he was summarily fired. Bowker had been an investigator for the county narcotics task force, and by all accounts, he was a good, if not exemplary, officer.
So when Police Chief Bruce Niggemeyer fired him, Bowker had to think that the chief was settling a personal score.
What wasn’t at issue was the steamy affair Bowker was carrying on with the chief’s wife. No one is saying it didn’t happen, including Chief Niggemeyer; his wife, Christine; Bowker; the city’s police officers and many in this town of 10,896 residents.
What was most curious to Fort Madison locals was that throughout the entire affair, Chief Niggemeyer and Officer Bowker were best friends.
“If you can go fishing with someone in the morning and have sex with his wife that night, you have no conscience,” Fort Mason Police Capt. Rob Hogan testified before the three-person Commission in May.
Apparently, news of the torrid tryst had been all over the Southeast Iowa town, home of Iowa’s only maximum security prison. The couple was often seen in public, and even went together to a concert at the local junior high school.
Either the chief didn’t look or didn’t want to listen.
That’s what Officer Jody Burch told him when she finally came into his office, closed the door, and broke the news to him late last year.
Niggemeyer said he was devastated.
Bowker, who was going through a divorce at the time, was staying with Burch and her husband, and on numerous occasions, Burch said Christine Niggemeyer spent the night with Bowker in the Burches’ basement apartment. At the time, Christine was an auxiliary officer for the Fort Madison Police Department.
The chief unburdened himself to City Manager Byron Smith, who launched an eight-month investigation. Smith came up with of host of allegations against Bowker, including sleeping on duty, browsing the Internet while on duty, failure to perform his official duties, disobedience, insubordination and “unbecoming conduct.” The probe culminated in Bowker’s firing February 25.
But at the heart of Bowker’s dismissal was his lack of tact. In his termination notice, Smith wrote to Bowker, “This was not simply a discrete extra-marital indiscretion. The manner in which you permitted other police officers and the public to see what was happening, and the fact that the affair involved or impacted two other well-known married police officers, one of whom was in position of supreme authority, must be considered.”
After thinking about his firing, Bowker did a very American thing: He hired an attorney.
“It’s safe to say we feel he is being singled out,” Keokuk attorney Curtis Dial told the Fort Madison Daily Democrat.
In testimony before the Civil Service Commission in June, Bowker said he loves Christine Niggemeyer and that the couple plans on marrying as soon as their respective divorces become final.
This isn’t the first scandal to rock Fort Madison law enforcement. At least two other police officers have divorced their spouses to marry each other, and last year, a sheriff’s deputy was removed from a drug task force because of an allegation that he was having sex with the wife of a drug dealer under investigation.
But in last month’s report, City Attorney Robert Johnson III wrote, “Bowker lost the trust of his Chief of Police and other officers in his chain of command.” The Commission labeled the officer’s behavior as misconduct, and concluded that his actions were “serious.”
The commission is scheduled to issue its decision on Bowker’s appeal next month.