The sign, posted on the glass window of the police department, reads: “The Town is currently without the Police Department. In the case of an emergency, please call 911.”
It seems like a prop from a dystopian film portraying a post-apocalyptic world, but it isn’t. It’s an actual sign from a small town in Indiana.
Bunker Hill, Ind., is home to about 900 residents.
Every one of these residents was left without a police department when the town marshal and four reserve deputies walked off the job in protest Monday, the Associated Press reported.
— 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.”
Some of their grievances were of a familiar variety — complaints about 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.”
The cuts, the officers alleged, forced every officer in the department to share a single set of body armor — a lack of sufficient resources that further endangered them.
“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.
Less familiar were the officers’ assertions, written in their resignation letter, that the council asked them to “do illegal, unethical, and immoral things.”
Among these were allegedly being asked by town councilors to secretly run background checks on one another. They claimed the councilors would threaten them — and sometimes follow through on these threats.
“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 after one officer pursued a drunk driver, which required breaking the speed limit, the officer was written up for “speeding.” Thomison alleged that 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 malfunctioning tailgate. His citation 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 this in its 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 the force. Upon his return, he was allegedly told to work 29.75 hours a week. The town is required to provide benefits to those who work 30 hours per week.
“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 — of which Bunker Hill is a part — will patrol the town and respond to calls in Bunker Hill, according the Sheriff Tim Miller, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, another bizarre story involving the law was unfolding in the neighboring town of Kokomo, less than 15 miles south of Bunker Hill. On Monday, the town legalized the arcade game pinball, which had been illegal there for 61 years.
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