William Grigg
LRC Blog
March 12, 2012

Mount Sterling, Ohio — population 1,800 — recently disbanded its entire police force following an incident in which a police officer assaulted a child with a deadly weapon.

Officer Scott O’Neil was called to deal with a 9-year-old who refused to go to school. According to the Columbus Dispatch, “the situation somehow escalated” — apparently the child did something to make the valiant officer fear for his life — and O’Neill “used a Taser on the boy.”

A woman who spoke with the victim’s mother said that the child appeared to have suffered a total of six burns on his back from multiple Taser strikes. Details of the incident aren’t available because Village Administrator Joe Johnson, in violation of the Ohio open records law, has refused to release the official report. The Village Council learned of the assault from another police department, because Police Chief Mike McCoy initially withheld information about it from Mayor Charlie Neff.

At the time of its dissolution, Mount Sterling’s police force consisted of five part-time officers. Seven months ago, the village was compelled to lay off its entire full-time police force for budgetary reasons. A group of civic-minded donors took it upon themselves to nullify that blessing by raising money to hire the part-time cops – because, after all, no city should be deprived of the valuable service provided by cretins in body armor who are trained to make small children “ride the Taser.”

If Covington, Texas (pop. 250) is fortunate, its police force will soon be consigned to oblivion. Last Friday (March 9), the City Council fired Wade Laurence following his arrest by the Texas Rangers on charges of using a fraudulent prescription to obtain controlled substances, a third degree felony.

Several Covington residents, including former police officers, have accused Laurence of dealing prescription drugs to schoolchildren, and illegally diverting confiscated marijuana out-of-state. The accusers include former Chief Dowell Missildine — who founded the department about a decade ago, and was forced out by Laurence roughly a year ago in what amounted to a putsch.

Laurence is free on $20,000 bail, and many residents of the tiny town are terrified.

“They are scared to death now,” City Council member Martha Smith told Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA. “They lock their doors, they lock their car doors because they are scared of the police.” Smith, who has publicly criticized Laurence’s management of the department, was threatened with arrest after she went to City Hall to collect minutes of City Council meetings. A few days prior to Laurence’s arrest, Smith — whose home had been under constant police surveillance – found that the rear windshield of her SUV had been vandalized.

Another transparent act of retaliation took place in a Council meeting last December that was called to examine the dismissal of Officer Kayla Richardson, a whistleblower who had told former Chief Missildine that she feared for her life. During the meeting, Richardson’s fiancé, Clifton Shelby, was arrested on a patently bogus assault charge arising from an incident several weeks earlier: While passing Chief Laurence’s Corvette on a wet road, Shelby’s truck briefly swerved into the other lane, but the vehicles never collided.

(For additional details about the reign of terror in Covington, go here.)

If the charges against Chief Laurence are true, he wouldn’t be the only small-town Texas police leader who played both sides of the “War on Drugs”: As City Marshal of Tenaha (population 1,125), Constable Fred Walker allegedly ordered the illegal bugging of municipal officials  who had been his partners in a multi-million-dollar drug asset forfeiture scam. The charges against Walker were made in an affidavit filed by Roderette McClure, who was arrested last fall for breaking into the offices at Walker’s direction.

For several years, the criminal clique in charge of Tenaha’s village government would conduct traffic stops targeting out-of-state motorists who met the “profile” of drug couriers. Anything of value found during the stop — including the vehicle itself — was stolen as “forfeited” proceeds of narcotics dealing, and the motorists were presented with an ultimatum: Relinquish their property, or face prosecution for “money laundering.” Rather than facing the prospect of a long, expensive legal entanglement, many of the victims simply gave up. On the other hand, actual drug dealers were often permitted to go free in exchange for surrendering their contraband.

McClure, who on February 14 pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, told FBI investigators that Constable Walker “had him install surveillance cameras disguised as smoke detectors and hidden voice-activated digital recording equipment in the offices of Tenaha Mayor George Boyers and deputy city marshal Barry Washington,” reported the AP. “Walker said he wanted to `cover’ himself over the traffic stops, most of which were conducted by Washington….”

According to McClure’s affidavit, he and Walker ran a drug trafficking ring when Walker was City Marshal. They eventually embezzled roughly 500 pounds in contraband — including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and hydrocone — from the Tenaha City Marshal’s office evidence room. In November 2010, the pair received an extortion threat from someone identifying himself as “Jack Frost” who said he was aware that Walker and McClure were stealing confiscated drugs and selling them. This led them to “stage a burglary as a cover for the missing drugs” — and then to install the listening devices in city office buildings in order to find out who was aware the City Marshal was moonlighting as a drug lord.

Police don’t get much more “local” than they are in hamlets and villages like Mount Sterling, Covington, and Tenaha (or, in another bizarre case, Sunriver, Oregon, a resort enclave with a permanent population of less than 1,000 people). In “towns” of that size, police — rather than protecting liberty and property — are usually the single greatest threat to both.

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