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.