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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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 2:20am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 11:53pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 4:22am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:05am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 4:22am

    So...in the wake of stripped away rights, we're creating a new class of citizens then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 12 Nov 2014 @ 4:59am

      Re:

      These guys have no class.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2014 @ 11:53am

      Police = elite class

      The new class is already created. All law enforcement agents are above the law that sends the rest of us shlubs, many innocent, into a gulag.

      The difference, is that in one town, people can buy into the new class for a reasonable fee.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 4:29am

    On the upside at least these terrorists all wear the same uniform.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:43am

      Re:

      We should all become cops so there won't be any worries anymore. Or get all jailed and sent to Australia so the cops can live in their citizen free world here. /derp

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Michael, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:55am

        Re: Re:

        Better yet, deputize all of the terrorists.

        Then when they are spouting rhetoric, bullying, and shooting at people it would be "crowd control" or "protecting themselves" rather than terrorist activity.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:57am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, not a bad idea. You know, maybe we could even pass a Constitutional amendment that allows all citizens to carry guns as part of some "militia" or something.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 4:31am

    Wait, they shut down their police force and nothing bad happened during that period? This is a model we should replicate nationwide - use the savings to rebuild our infrastructure, pay down the debt etc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:05am

    This sounds like an old wild west shoot 'em up movie where the corruption runs rampant, normal people get kicked, shot and run outta town at sundown.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:32am

    Only in America....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:36am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Huh?, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 5:57am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 6:48am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DOlz (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 6:58am

    Kaching!

    $1,200 to become a cop + asset forfeiture = we’re in the money

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 12 Nov 2014 @ 7:01am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2014 @ 11:56am

      1 = 0

      It might.

      Or rather, it might force a paradigm change in the legal system. More likely it will be managed by internal affairs where the less popular cop gets dressed down, or worked over, or disappeared, depending on what he allegedly did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daniel, 12 Nov 2014 @ 7:05am

    Extra rights?

    Maybe we should just give those "extra rights" to everyone, since they are rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 7:57am

    So if an undercover terrorists/kkk/hate groups move to small towns across America they could run for sheriff recruit all their buddy's and eventually become completely legal, in their efforts .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 8:38am

    Being a cop, that means you are allowed to have military-grade weaponry that civilian gun-nuts can only dream about. And besides being allowed to own nifty toys like machineguns and grenade launchers, the federal government is giving away these military weapons free to any police force that asks.

    Where do I sign up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 8:43am

    Uh, this has nothing to do with tech.

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:27am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 10:48am

        Re: Re:

        "Tim's articles have been scoring high Google rankings."

        LOL

        Tim Cushing hates cops. That's extent of knowledge gleaned from his "articles".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gwiz (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 11:07am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:27am

      Re:

      Techdirt hasn't been just about tech for some time. So what?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:38am

      Re:

      Police officers are great during the times they're doing their jobs correctly. It's all those other times that give them a bad name.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 13 Nov 2014 @ 7:39am

        Re: Re:

        Well, policemen are like geek werewolf friends. When stuff gets ugly, you really wish for the dusk so that they stop being so wimpy and become an asset.

        But there is dark after dusk.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 3:47pm

      Re:

      Just so we're clear, since you don't feel this should be written about, is it safe to assume you're perfectly okay with this extraordinarily corrupt and declared-illegal-by-a-court "police" force?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 3:47pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:20am

    Buy the respect we deserve

    So I've thought about this for a while, and I think it is a good thing we should adopt nationwide. We've all seen how police officers treat average citizens and let other officers "get away with murder" (sometimes literally).

    So let's all be officers: Buy the respect we deserve.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:38am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:52am

      Re: Ah, for the good old days.

      Wasn't *anyone* watching when this monster started to wake up?

      And by that I meant, "Wait. What? You're going to sell the position of police officer to just anybody? Are you out of your mind?"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 9:51am

    All the shit that's been happening of late makes me wonder: how about we disband all government? It shouldn't be too hard to force that kind of situation, just release some deadly virus into the air in the center of Washington D.C, or just make a zombie virus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 12 Nov 2014 @ 10:29am

      Re:

      Bioweapons are a bad idea. Seriously, don't be the guy who started the zombie apocalypse.
      That said, I wouldn't mind too terribly if such a fate was visited upon Congress. That's one way to remove the incumbents,

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gwiz (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      ...how about we disband all government?

      Count me out.

      Anarchy is all fun and games right up to the point when the guy from the next valley over, who happens to have more weapons and manpower than you, decides he wants your land, your possessions and your women and children.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 10:38am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2014 @ 10:42am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Pragmatic, 13 Nov 2014 @ 5:50am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2014 @ 12:05pm

            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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2014 @ 6:32am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 13 Nov 2014 @ 8:08am

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2014 @ 9:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2014 @ 12:10pm

                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.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jimb (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 10:56am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim March Simpson, 12 Nov 2014 @ 11:09am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    connermac725 (profile), 12 Nov 2014 @ 1:56pm

    Sign Me Up

    I could start giving cops who break the law tickets.
    definitely brings new meaning to rent a cop

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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