At the time of his suicide, Kik – who had been chief for nearly 30 years – had turned over his administrative responsibilities to another officer named Chris Martin. The official story was that he was on “medical leave,”
a claim difficult to sustain in light of subsequent disclosures.
A source with knowledge of secretive dealings between Kik and the Township board told the Banner that the chief had been quietly demoted because he “had not submitted some reports properly.” If the paperwork was not completed and turned in by June 1, 2009, the board would convene a meeting “to discuss disciplinary actions.” Only one of the necessary reports had been completed prior to Kik’s suicide.
“Don’t let the sheriff take over the police department,” Kik reportedly exhorted his colleagues in his suicide note. “He is trying.”
Then-Sheriff Dar Leaf acknowledged that he had offered to provide coverage to Barry Township, as he had others in the county, but denied that he was trying to take over for the BTPD because the village “can’t afford the sheriff’s services.” Nor was it in need of government law enforcement “services” of any kind.
Rather than shutting down the BTPD station and discharging the reserve officers, the township hired Pierce in late 2009. Pierce, who at the time was 51, assumed the office of chief in Barry Township practically the same day that he began collecting his pension from Battle Creek.
Many men, upon reaching a certain age, seek to hold “the subtle thief of youth” at bay by undergoing cosmetic surgery. Others buy motorcycles. Some who retain their marketability may have extra-marital affairs. Pierce, whose unevenly – and unconvincingly — dark coiffure testifies to his vanity, decided to create a fantasy camp for over-aged adolescents who wanted to play the role of costumed badasses. Thus he created a corps of unpaid and untrained “reserve officers” drawn from other cities as distant as Kalamazoo.
This kind of thing is harmless fun, until it isn’t. The fun ended early in the morning on May 10, when two of Pierce’s cosplaying volunteers took part in the gang beating of local businessman Jack Nadwornik, the owner of Tujax Tavern and a member of the county planning commission.
Nadwornik, who was celebrating his 58th
birthday, had just closed his bar and – given that the streets were vacant and nature’s call was compelling – relieved himself in the corner of an empty parking lot next to his business. Within seconds two BTPD vehicles were on the scene, disgorging one full-time officer and two fanboys in full costume. Within a few minutes Nadwornik’s hand was broken, his body was covered with bruises inflicted with a club, and he was facing a felony charge that carries a two-year prison sentence
The assailants claimed that the victim “resisted” their attack, as he has every right to
. The only objective eyewitness to the event insists that the cops – including the two role-playing wannabes – lied about the incident, as cops are trained to
. The incident catalyzed what had previously been inchoate concerns over Pierce’s empire-building.
Earlier this year the Michigan State Police was asked to investigate complaints against Pierce and his police force. Their preliminary report concluded that there was no evidence of criminal conduct, and that predictable finding allowed Pierce to claim vindication. Most of his “customers,” however, remain dissatisfied. Many residents have complained about contrived traffic stops that have grown into opportunistic searches – one of which involved thirteen officers (most of whom were reservists), a drug-sniffing dog, and the hours-long detention of a weary woman who was simply trying to get home from work.
At a public meeting earlier this week that was attended by practically everyone in Barry Township, citizens demanding that Pierce be fired submitted a petition containing one thousand signatures. The Town Council has yet to act on that demand. However, the 34-member reserve corps was suspended at the request of the Michigan Township Participating Plan, which insures the PTPD.
Victor Pierce is not the only small-town police chief in Michigan seeking to build an empire with the help of uncertified “reserve officers.”
After Aileen Gengler complained to her boss, Dennis Bitterman, about Reznick’s behavior, the tavern owner contacted the chief and asked him to lay off his waitress. According to a lawsuit filed by Bitterman, the chief “exploded in anger” and used his reserve officers to scrutinize the tavern owner’s business. Bitterman and his wife say that “aggressive” patrols of their establishment have cost them customers
Four subsequent lawsuits have been filed by the Bitterman family, all of them dealing primarily with refusals by the village council and police department to comply with laws governing open meetings and freedom of information requests. Among the details withheld by the police department were the names of its reserve officers – which means that the reserves are, by strict definition, a secret police force in a flyspeck-sized community with no documented criminal activity
Pierce’s job seemed secure because of support
from the local punitive populist demographic, which is composed primarily of retirement-age Fox News consumers and employees of the government school system.
According to Delton resident Jim Cook, the chief “has basically started a scare campaign within the … church, senior community, and school system…. Using Sandy Hook, al-Qaeda, and `Jesus told you’ as [his] primary campaign…. [He has] convinced a small group of people that without [him] and [his] posse, they will not be able to walk the town without the risk of being raped, kidnaped, molested, or killed.”
has a high burglary rate, violent crime is all but non-existent there. But like Victor Pierce, Todd Stovall considers himself a visionary ordained by Providence to head off the apocalypse.
“We’re going to do it to everybody,” the chief insisted. “Criminals don’t like being talked to” by the police.
The same is true of any individual possessing a particle of self-respect, of course.
“The fear is what’s given us the reason to do this,” insisted Stovall as he announced that he was going to deploy officers “in SWAT gear [with] AR-15s around their [sic] neck.” During a town hall meeting at the West View Baptist Church, Stovall explained that “If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID…. I’ve got statistical reasons that say I’ve got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you’re doing out.”
Stovall appears to be the sort of person who has never owned a library card, which is why his understanding of “probable cause” appears limited to a phrase or two he heard while watching television. He has a more comprehensive understanding of the key law enforcement concept, “officer safety,” and an instinctive ability to recognize a public relations disaster. Accordingly, in early 2013 he discontinued a series of town hall meetings
that were planned to unveil his martial law program, citing “public safety concerns.”
“My officers didn’t lie,” grunted Stovall when asked why he hadn’t discharged them from his force after their lies had become an indelible – and expensive — part of the town’s legal history.
Wherever a police department exists, the seeds of a gestapo have been planted. Tiny towns across the country are afflicted with police chiefs who see themselves as heroic men of destiny, and no police department is so small that the Pentagon will turn down its request for battlefield-grade weapons and vehicles – thereby inviting the involvement of the kind of people who will help those malignant seeds blossom. Outraged residents of Barry Township have trimmed away one of the branches; now they need to strike at the root.