How Do You Have A Town Of 300 Residents… And 100 Police Officers? You Let Anyone 'Buy' A Job As A Cop

from the another-ISIS-threat-thwarted! dept

Oakley, Michigan has only 300 residents. Up until very recently, it also had 100 police officers. How does a town end up with a police force equal to one-third of its population? To answer that question, you have to go back to when it had a single police officer.

Oakley, Mi. is barely a town at 300 people, only one streetlight and, until recently, one police officer. The one cop was good at his job, reports Vocativ’s M.L. Nestel, until he was forced to step down after getting caught stalking a teenage girl.

A new chief, Robert Reznick, was installed. He immediately began hiring new officers. The one officer that had policed the town for several years without incident was replaced with twelve full-time officers. Then Reznick went further, allowing civilians to buy their way onto the police force.

Here’s how the chief’s program works: The wanna-be officers pay about about $1,200 for a uniform, bullet-proof vest and gun, and some make additional donations to the police department. In return, they get a police badge and the right to carry their gun almost anywhere in the state, including places that people with normal gun permits can’t, like casinos, bars, stadiums and daycare centers.

This proved to be very popular, even pulling in a couple of non-resident NFL players as auxiliary officers. Needless to say, running a pay-to-play police force tends to generate problems. Complaints were raised about the heightened police presence at a local event that had run peaceably (if rather rowdily) for years.

The concerns raised echo those stated by Oakley Bike Run President Randy Sutter back in 2011.

“We have successfully held this event in its current location, in this village for 13 years without a single major incident. In past years, the one Oakley Police officer provided the necessary presence for the entire weekend without a problem. This year, we were adorned with 15 police officers, uniformed and undercover, two police cars, a golf cart and a K-9 unit. The view down Main Street looked as if the village had been locked down from some deadly viral outbreak and at any moment the National Guard would be rolling in with personnel carriers to escort us all into a containment zone.”

Sutter went on to claim that the number of officers negatively affected participants’ perception of event’s safety and was causing harm to both his event and the businesses supported by the influx of non-residents.

2014’s complaints included further instances of perceived abuse and misconduct.

Brandi Bitterman, a member of the family that owns the Oakley’s Family Tavern, claimed her fiance was wrongfully arrested and harassed during bike weekend. The man, who was arrested at the Family Tavern, refused to provide his name.

This wasn’t Chief Reznick’s first tangle with Bitterman and her bar. In 2013, Reznick was accused of harassing one of the tavern’s bartenders.

Reznick has defended his out-sized police force and his actions even as council members have called for his dismissal. Since that point in early September, the police force has been shut down and revived several times.

The police force was suspended due to its lack of insurance coverage. It later put itself back to work — without a council vote — after purchasing $500,000 in coverage from a company willing to overlook numerous ongoing lawsuits against the department, as well as its large number of honorary gun toters.

Since that initial shutdown failed to take, the stakes were raised by a county court, which ordered the disbandment of Reznick’s ad hoc police force. It also ordered the return of all equipment in use by the numerous auxiliary officers. Chief Reznick refused to comply with the order, resulting in many items being forcibly retrieved by outside law enforcement agencies.

Now, with several news agencies looking to obtain the names of the auxiliary officers “employed” by Reznick, an unlikely person has stepped in to block the release of this information.

Herschel Fink, a longtime First Amendment defender who has represented several Detroit area TV networks (along with some national outlets), is the man standing between the media (and the plaintiff of a lawsuit against Chief Reznick) and the list of auxiliary officers.

Fink, in defending this action, cites both the FBI and Chief Reznick in what has to be one of the most ridiculous defenses of self-serving opacity ever.

In the undated email, Fink cited an Oct. 13 bulletin by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that ISIS had called for attacks against law enforcement and government workers.

“To release identifying information about law enforcement personnel under such circumstances would not only result in damages against the Village, and everyone involved in such a release, it would likely be considered as having been done with malice, opening the door to punitive damages,” wrote Fink.

So, why has Fink decided to argue against the freedom of information? Here’s the answer, as noted by M.L. Nestel of Voacitv back in October.

Another guy who bought himself a badge and gun from Reznick is a white-shoe lawyer named Herschel Fink, who serves as the editorial counsel for The Detroit Free Press. Calls made to Fink’s office weren’t returned.

Fink is for free speech except when his position as a amateur cop is threatened. That’s sickening and hopefully the Detroit Free Press will reconsider his employment in light of this hypocrisy.

Despite all the indications that Reznick’s inflated police force is a bad idea for Oakley and its residents, the town may have no choice in the matter. Circuit Judge Robert Kaczmarek issued an injunction suspending the force until after last Tuesday’s election. That election saw four candidates backed by the auxiliary police force elected, giving them a majority on the seven-member city council.

If you’re looking for the nadir of terrorism-based rationalizing, this legal battle over the names of those “employed” in Reznick’s rent-a-badge scheme is very likely it. No terrorist group would care about a loose collection of imitation cops who chipped in at least $1,200 each in exchange for some extra rights. If anything, they’d point to it as evidence of American corruption and hypocrisy — and they’d be right to do so.

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Comments on “How Do You Have A Town Of 300 Residents… And 100 Police Officers? You Let Anyone 'Buy' A Job As A Cop”

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58 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

One law for me, another for thee

Since that initial shutdown failed to take, the stakes were raised by a county court, which ordered the disbandment of Reznick’s ad hoc police force. It also ordered the return of all equipment in use by the numerous auxiliary officers. Chief Reznick refused to comply with the order, resulting in many items being forcibly retrieved by outside law enforcement agencies.

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure any other large, heavily armed group who claimed legal authority to act as arbiters of the law, and who were ordered to disband by a judge and refused would not get nearly as ‘nice’ a reply as ‘oh, okay, well we’ll just re-claim some of the items you were ordered to hand in, alright?’

No, I’m pretty sure at that point, and if you were talking about any group other than a police force, some calls would be made, and a government agency or two would show up and the ‘option to refuse’ would be removed from the table at gun-point.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: That may present a fresh viewpoint.

I forget the town that insisted that the ten commandments be erected on the grounds of county government property, so the Satanists commissioned a statue celebrating their faith / philosophy to be erected alongside the Decalogue.

Similarly, I bet that if the Hells Angels or Folk Nation or any other organized gang with criminal ties decided to buy into police powers, it may allow people to wake up to the ramifications of this practice.

This does very much remind me of the middle ages around the 14th or 15th century, when a well-to-do merchant could buy himself a handsome barony or bishophood complete with holdings, responsibilities and the ability to adjudicate as he saw fit. The practice had problems then as well.

Richard (profile) says:

Terrorist Group

No terrorist group would care about a loose collection of imitation cops who chipped in at least $1,200 each in exchange for some extra rights.

“a loose collection of imitation cops who chipped in at least $1,200 each in exchange for some extra rights ” is a terrorist group.

I think terrorist groups will look at this with interest as something to copy.

Move enough supporters into a small town like this and you can become the law.

It’s terrifying.

David says:

Re: Terrorist Group

“a loose collection of imitation cops who chipped in at least $1,200 each in exchange for some extra rights” is a terrorist group.

No, just organized crime (they pay some money to their Godfather in order to break the law without consequence). And loosely organized at that.

Even if they terrorize the village, there is no overarching political theme or purpose behind it.

Michael (profile) says:

You cannot really blame the people that signed up. The program sounds like a really good deal. For about $1200 you get a complete police uniform including a bullet-proof vest and sidearm and you get the holy grail of state carrying permits. I would also assume that having that badge will get out out of pretty much any traffic ticket or perjury charge. I’m sure there are plenty of places where you get free coffee and donuts. You will probably get into any club without a cover charge so you can “investigate”.

If someone knows of a program like this in CT, please let me know.

Did they get patrol cars issued to them?

Huh? says:

soon to be a population of cops policing cops

Wow this scenario floored me. We see this corruption in everyday life in India, not the US. What’s next? Pay for a drivers license without any exam? Pay a little extra to get better investigation with preferred outcome on your side? This police chief has to get thrown out the damn fast, its a slippery slope he’s started which does not belong over here.

Anonymous Coward says:

“In the undated email, Fink cited an Oct. 13 bulletin by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that ISIS had called for attacks against law enforcement and government workers.”

Oh, hell, at this point, they’ve called for attacks against everyone. It’s an act of colossal ego (and duplicity) on the part of Fink to arrogantly claim that he and his fake cop pals are special enough to merit individual attention.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, in other words the town decided to give a gift to the NRA by letting people purchase the right to carry guns anywhere, and act as law enforcement, fulfilling the NRA’s dream of vigilante justice. And then they found out vigilante justice and giving police power to anyone who buys it isn’t such a good idea.

Gee, who could have ever foreseen this problem.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Cop-on-cop crime?

What will happen when the inevitable occurs and one fake cop commits a crime against another fake cop? Who does the judge and jury give more weight, because both guys are cops? Because cops are considered to be always correct even when proven wrong in a courtroom, if both guys give two different stories, does that create a paradox and destroy the universe?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Uh, this has nothing to do with tech.”

It has everything to do with dirt.

“I’d be surprised if Cushing isn’t on some kind of watch list due to his pathological hatred of police officers.”

You’re upset because Tim’s articles have been scoring high Google rankings.
If writers who dare to point out police corruption, brutality, and criminality end up being retaliated against by the same people they criticise, then it should be obvious that Tim’s work is far from over.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Tim Cushing hates cops. That’s extent of knowledge gleaned from his “articles”.

If that is all you have gleaned from Tim’s articles, then you have only yourself to blame for that.

It doesn’t seem to me that Tim hates cops at all, but more along the lines that Tim hates gross incompetence and blatant abuses of power. As should we all.

You are the only one who seems to think that criticizing those who abuse their powers equates to an attack on the entire profession.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The AC doth protest too much

due to his pathological hatred of corrupt and/or incompetent police officers

Fixed for accuracy. Really, your inability to tell the difference, and repeated objections to having police misconduct and illegal activity made public suggests more than a few things, none of them good, about your motivations posting such blatant lies and mischaracterizations.

tqk (profile) says:

Ah, for the good old days.

Tim, I miss your old bombastic sarcasm. This story cries out for it. Well, I guess a lot of stories here do.

Whatever, keep on keepin’ on. TD seems to find the most excrutiatingly oddball WTF stuff! Truth truly is stranger than fiction. One tiny little snowflake falling onto the top of a mountain results in an avalanche at the bottom that wipes out whole cities. It’s amazing when things are allowed to get to their logical extremes. Wasn’t *anyone* watching when this monster started to wake up?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yup. Ignoring the ethical problem with his suggestion of mass murder and the logical problem that Washington DC doesn’t run local governments, there’s this inherent problem with the idea of anarchy: it can never last except with small, isolated groups of people.

Government is inevitable and inescapable for a whole bunch of reasons. The real choice we have is what sort of government it will be. Personally, I’d prefer to avoid the warlord model.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agreed. It’s kind of funny the dynamics that go on here at Techdirt.

Techdirt spends a lot of their time putting government corruption on display in order to weed it out, sunshine being the best disinfectant and all that. That often gets misconstrued by the readers as Techdirt being anti-government, which is of course nonsense.

America would fall to pieces within a week without the rule of law the government provides. The problem is that the government has become rotten. Burning it down and starting fresh is long overdue at this point.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Agreed. I’m not for anarchy but burning it down and starting afresh requires some burning to be done and would most likely result in a power vacuum followed by a big mess. Better to deal with it piecemeal and insist on a co-operative, communitarian model based on representative democracy. No taxation without representation, and all that.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Isn't that what we did back in the 18th century?

If you’re looking for a path to reform it will take centuries, and generations aren’t going to be willing to live with that. The situation will end in blood and fire sooner than a reform program can be complete.

Either that, or our culture will be taken over by Europe or the Islamic nation or weeaboos.

The problem is we tried representative democracy and a correlation between representation / taxation, and social equality.

And that got us here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“America would fall to pieces within a week without the rule of law the government provides.”

There was a stark difference in the aftermath of the Hurricane that hit New Orleans in 2005, and the earthquake and tidal wave that hit Japan in 2011.

It seems that whenever the heavy boot of law is lifted in the USA, the result is widespread looting and rampant criminality. But in Japan, people remain law-abiding — even when they don’t have to.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“It seems that whenever the heavy boot of law is lifted in the USA, the result is widespread looting and rampant criminality. But in Japan, people remain law-abiding — even when they don’t have to”

Based on what I’ve been told by friends in Japan during these sorts of incidents, I don’t think there’s a huge difference in behavior in this respect. The real difference is in the media: in the US, the media loves to talk about things like looting and violence. In Japan, the media prefers to talk about how wonderful everything is running.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Official government censorship is one thing, but international news crews were in Japan in the aftermath, and if the kind of rampant looting on the scale that post-hurricane New Orleans suffered from was indeed taking place in Japan, it’s quite odd that this headline-grabbing event was never mentioned, either inside or outside of Japan.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It was out press calling people looters in Orleans.

Remember that in the Katrina aftermath, white people were interpreted as “looking for supples” and black people were interpreted as “looting”. Both were crimes of necessity (e.g. stealing food so as to stave off starvation). That difference is noted to this day as how our press interprets whites and blacks in news.

In the Japanese earthquake we didn’t have the racial differences. Everyone looks Japanese with hints of Korean because that pretty much defines everyone in Japan. And while yes, the prejudice against Korean-descent people is rampant in Japan it’s not strongly represented in their press.

jimb (profile) says:

If I were a terrorist, I’d sure be interested in signing on with this department. What better cover than a badge – and ‘legal’ approval to carry a gun (maybe I should keep and AK in my trunk, in case I need more firepower…). So, this expanded “police” force is a perfect cover to terrorists looking to infiltrate and covertly get into position to cause major attacks. What kind of background checks are done, other than checking to make sure the $1200 check doesn’t bounce? After all, if they let a lawyer sign up, they apparently will accept almost anyone. Maybe we should let the FBI or NSA know about these guys, they look a lot like a ‘home-grown’ terrorist organization to me.

Jim March Simpson (profile) says:

This may give them *national* carry rights...

I suspect this game started prior to 2001, back when getting an MI gun carry permit was difficult. Once they reformed that process for normal folks the need dropped. But then in 2004 “LEOSA” passed, a federal law that allows off-duty cops to carry in all 50 states plus DC plus places like Guam. It’s very possible the pre-2001 setup in this town then got revived because of LEOSA and that’s the aspect to this scam.

There are examples of this sort of thing from elsewhere. I don’t know if links are allowed here but google Colafrancesco papers for a police report on the same crap in California some years back.

http://www.ninehundred.net/~equalccw/colafrancescopapers.pdf

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