Friday, April 17, 2015

150 cops for 300 residents: the Michigan town running 'pay-to-play' policing

A lawsuit is attempting to force transparency from village leaders about the scheme. Photograph: Brad Devereaux/The Saginaw News/AP
Rapper Kid Rock among many prominent people said to have joined Oakley’s army of reserve police officers – often in exchange for large donations

Tom Dart in Houston, The Guardian

Oakley, Michigan, is not a hotbed of crime. But if that should change, it seems well placed to cope, because the village is believed to have a police force numbering almost 150 people, or one officer for every two residents.

One, Robert James Ritchie, does not live in Oakley. A Detroit-area native better known as the rapper Kid Rock, he applied to join the village’s small army of reserve police officers, according to an attorney, along with many prominent Michigan professionals and businesspeople and a football player for the Miami Dolphins.

“A small blip on the map, the little village of Oakley, with less than 300 residents, has got dozens and dozens of no-show secret police officers,” said Philip Ellison, a lawyer who is representing the family who own Oakley’s tavern in lawsuits attempting to force transparency from village leaders about the scheme.

Ellison said the singer was one of the names on a document released to him which he is not allowed to make public in full.

“None of the reservists, with the exception of one, live within an hour and a half of the village of Oakley,” said Ellison. He and others say the police force is in effect running a “pay to play” scheme with parallels to the controversy in Tulsa, Oklahoma that erupted after a wealthy white 73-year-old reserve deputy with close links to the sheriff shot dead a black man during a botched sting operation after apparently mistaking his gun for his Taser.

(More here.)

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