BUNKER HILL, Ind. – The Bunker Hill Police Department is closed for business. A sign on the front door of the department reads, “The Town is currently without the Police Department. In the case of an emergency, please call 911.”
The town of about 900 residents in Indiana just lost the town marshal and four reserved deputies due to grievance issues, reported The Washington Post.
— FOX59 News (@FOX59) December 15, 2016
“We have had issues with the town board, and there are some activities there where I felt like they were serving their own agenda,” former Bunker Hill town marshal Michael Thomison told WXIN.
In a statement released Wednesday and obtained by WTTV, the Bunker Hill Town Council expressed surprise.
“The resignation of the entire police force has come as a shock to the council,” it read. “It has never been the goal to dismantle or otherwise endanger the town police department or officers.”
One of their grievances included financial cuts to the department.
“They would not communicate with us or the officers and they kept scaling back,” said Thomison, a four-year member of the force.
He later told BuzzFeed News, “We can’t make this up. They were just not receptive to having a police department.”
They said the cuts forced every officer in the department to share a single piece of body armor.
For anyone who has worn body armor on a hot summer day, you know how repulsive this can be. For those unfamiliar with the proposition, imagine donning sweaty gym clothes that were just removed by another person.
“I did not want to send someone out there with bad body armor, so I would take mine off and provide it to the other officers,” Thomison told WXIN. “I told them we have to provide this, there is an IC code that explains that and says that the town has to provide that body armor.”
The town council, though, denied leaving the force with only one set of armor. In the statement, it wrote:
The current town council as well as prior councils have, on occasion, had disagreements with Mr. Thomison over a number of things. These disagreements have primarily been caused by the lack of funding available to the town to invest in the police department. However, the council denies that it has failed to provide body armor for the marshal or reserve deputies.
Resigning officers wrote in their letter of resignation that the council asked them to “do illegal, unethical, and immoral things.” Specifically, they say members of the town council privately requested background checks on one another. They also said threats were made, and on occasion they followed through.
“None of us wanted to quit,” Joshua Graham, one of the reserve officers who resigned, told BuzzFeed News. “They just, basically did whatever they wanted to do, whether it’s by the law or not.”
Thomison told BuzzFeed News, for example, that one officer found himself in pursuit of a drunk driver, which required breaking the speed limit. Later, that officer was written up for “speeding.” Thomison alleged the reason was because the officer had previously pulled over a council member’s wife.
Troy Gornto, another former officer, told BuzzFeed News he was also written up after stopping a council member whose car had a minor equipment violation. His reprimand was for “abusing town equipment” after pulling the member over. The complaint stated he “took off quickly.”
“It just bothered me because I knew his complaint was unfounded,” he told BuzzFeed News.
The town council also denied the assertions in a written statement. “The council absolutely denies that it has ever asked Mr. Thomison or any of the reserve deputies to be involved in any illegal, unethical or immoral actions,” it read.
Finally, Thomison said after he was diagnosed with cancer, he had to take time off from work. Upon his return, he said he was told to work 29.75 hours a week, as the town is required to provide benefits to those who work 30 hours per week or more.
“They came at me and said it is costing the town way too much money because of my insurance and they said we are taking you down to part time,” Thomison told WTTV.
In a statement, town officials said they are assembling a new police force.
“Bunker Hill is in the process of obtaining a new marshal and reserve deputies. The council asks for patience from the town residents in this process,” it read.
Until then, deputies from Miami County, which includes Bunker Hill, will provide law enforcement services for the town, according the Sheriff Tim Miller, the Associated Press reported.