MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – There’s clearly more to this story… but chances are, you won’t hear the truth from the mayor’s office.
That’s because his son was recently arrested on drug charges, and shortly after, three top cops in the city resigned following a “heated discussion” with the mayor.
On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Ron Meer’s office announced the resignations in a letter.
The three were Police Chief Mark Swistek and Assistant Chiefs Royce Williams and Kevin Urbanczyk. They handed over their resignations in a move that’s sure to spark a conversation.
This, after the arrest of Meer’s stepson by a county task force… along with an apparent directive from Meer to remove the city from task force participation.
The letter of resignation was dated Thursday and posted to the Michigan City Police Department’s Facebook page.
It was officially filed and signed by Swistek. It suggests Meer demanded Swistek remove the city’s police force from participation in the La Porte County Drug Task Force.
“Your directive to withdraw all cooperation and participation in the La Porte County Drug Task Force and to reassign the officers who are currently attached to the task force places the Michigan City community at unacceptable risk,” the resignation letter reads.
That wasn’t going to happen.
“I am simply unable to reconcile my oath of office with your directive for me to withdraw our department’s participation in the task force, reassign the talented and committed members of the Michigan City Police Department who are currently serving with the unit with the utmost integrity, dedication and professionalism asked of them.”
The resignation letter is scathing. It goes on to explain that La Porte County has been designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It also points out the county “and indeed the entire nation is suffering the worst and most lethal drug epidemic in our nation’s history.”
“I do not know whether your decision is related to your stepson’s recent arrest by the task force,” the letter continues.
They say it’s clear the mayor is putting his own personal interests above those of the city.
“But I do know that your decision is not in the interest of public safety, that it places the people of this great community in harm’s way.”
In the mayor’s office’s letter, it talks about the conversation Meer had with Swistek. He claims Meer had no intention of removing the Police Department from the county task force.
“This morning, I apologized for my choice of words to the chief during a private heated conversation, and I apologize to the members of the Michigan City Police Department,” Meer says.
It’s clear he’s in damage control mode.
“… I did not mean what I said to Chief Swistek, and I had no intention of reassigning any officers in the LaPorte County Drug Task Force or withdrawing the cooperation and participation of the Michigan City Police Department on said task force.”
Earlier this week, the mayor attacked the police, saying he felt his stepson’s arrest was politically motivated, coming just 11 days before the municipal election.
“I think there’s been some comments from myself that are addressed in the statement that I probably could have said more professionally and in a different manner,” Meer said.
His comments were made in an interview Thursday evening.
“… There’s certain officers on the Michigan City Police Department, including the upper echelon of the administration that felt insulted in the situation, and so the apologies are addressed in my statement
According to the mayor’s office, Swistek is quoted as standing by Meer.
“I support this administration and still stand with Mayor Meer,” Swistek says. “I will continue to assist with the command structure and will lead my support with the transition to the new police chief and his or her assistants.”
Meer accepted the resignations. According to the letter, Swistek, Williams and Urbanczyk are expected to return to their former ranks and continue working with the Police Department.
The letter from Swistek ended by listing his rank as lieutenant.
Are you starting to notice a trend of putting safety second?
Look no further than what just happened in Newburgh, New York.
We already know that it’s incredibly difficult to attract quality candidates to the world of law enforcement and keep them working ever since it’s become the most demonized and over-scrutinized career out there. But one city is now at risk of losing 1 out of every 5 cops.
Why, you ask?
The 2020 budget for the City of Newburgh doesn’t have enough for everything they want, and so now the department is at risk of losing nearly 2o percent of its ranks.
As it stands, there’s only 80 employees within the department altogether, already operating at an understaffed level when looking at comparably-sized cities.
Officers are now hoping the city comes up with a solution before they’re asked to step down from protecting and serving.
“I hope they (city government) can figure out a way to help us,” Officer Dellauno Thomas said in an interview with the Times Herald Record. “But, still, I’m trying to look out for my family, trying to save what money I can right now, just in case things do happen and I have to try to find a job somewhere else.”
Others, like Lt. Kevin Lahar, president of the city police’s Police Superior Officers Association, are warning city officials that the slash to the law enforcement agency would put the city in a bad way.
“It would be catastrophic,” Lahar said.
The budget also proposes sewer fees and property taxes. He says in the past, administrators over estimated revenue and under estimated expenses, and their numbers never worked. https://t.co/vS1ymk0qvL
— Spectrum News HV (@SPECNewsHV) October 16, 2019
In addition to the police force, fire fighters would also be at risk of losing between 10 and 12 paid positions.
The vice president of the local PBA said that the city’s message that they would rather fund other projects instead of backing their officers is loud and clear, and that everyone within the department is looking to jump ship instead of taking the risk of losing their jobs.
“Everybody is putting their applications in, trying to go elsewhere, and that’s including sergeants that would go back to patrol somewhere else,” said Det. Michael Loscerbo. “Nobody wants to take the chance of getting laid off, so they’re being proactive and trying to find another job as soon as they can.
Stage is set for crucial moment for Newburgh, NY. City manager says city is 1 or 2 major, costly events away from insolvency. He’ll present budget that proposes several layoffs at the police dept, fire dept and DPW. It will be ugly. Turn on Spectrum News now for the latest. pic.twitter.com/sBk0jg7AvI
— Ben Nandy (@BenNandyNews) October 15, 2019
He says regardless of the city’s decision about approving the budget, it’s already too late. The damage has been done.
“So, even if there aren’t any layoffs, we’re still going to lose 15 to 16 guys,” Loscerbo said.
“It’s impossible,” officers said.
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“A revolving problem that the City of Newburgh faces is retaining good officers,” said Det. Lt. Joseph Burns. “And why do these people leave? It’s because they find themselves in situations like this, three months before the holidays. …”
The city says that it’s looking for other ways to alleviate budget restrictions without impacting a first responder or city worker.
“We’re working like animals behind the scenes because no one wants to cut a firefighter, police officer, a DPW worker,” Mayor Torrance Harvey said on Wednesday. “And nobody wants to raise taxes.”
Newburgh city officials face tough decisions with 25 police and firefighter cuts looming – Mid Hudson News https://t.co/pCvjegxJp0
— Yuvetta Robinson (@YuvettaRobinson) October 22, 2019
But the cops don’t see it that way, feeling as though city leaders aren’t willing to make sacrifices to protect first responders.
“They want us to give up things, what are they giving up?” one officer said.
The budget for 2020 has not yet been finalized.
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