BUNKER HILL, Ind. — A central Indiana community has been left without a police department after the town marshal and four reserve deputies all resigned over complaints that the town council mismanaged the department, even asking officers to break the law.
Town Marshal Michael Thomison submitted letters of resignation for himself and his four reserve, unpaid deputies Monday during the regular meeting of the town board.
Though the town has fewer than 900 residents living 60 miles north of Indianapolis, Bunker Hill is adjacent to Grissom Air Reserve Base and is home to the Miami Correctional Facility, a state prison.
In his letter, Thomison claims the town board asked him to “be involved in illegal, unethical and immoral things over time,” including asking him to conduct criminal background checks on other board members and requesting confidential information.
“I have had to educate them on the things they were asking from me and explained that I would not take part in any of these actions,” he said.
Thomison said the board also voted to reduce his hours to part time so the town would not be required to provide health insurance after he was diagnosed with cancer.
In an interview with the Kokomo, Indiana Tribune, Thomison also cited concerns over the town council’s decision to reduce the police department from nine reserve deputies to just four, and limit their patrol area.
“The town has refused to educate themselves on how to run a town, they continue to carry out their personal agendas to either run off the police department or make it so that it is impossible to work with or for them,” he said.
Council members accepted the resignations Monday with little comment.
“We’re a little blindsided by everyone resigning, but it is what it is,” said Council President Brock Speer.
Councilman Luis Nino was absent from the meeting during the resignations, but showed up 45 minutes after the meeting had started.
After he was informed the town no longer had a police department, Nino only responded “I appreciate the update.”
Thomison, who was hired in 2013 as the marshal, told the Tribune he didn’t want to leave the department, “but the longer I stay there, the harder it is to get anything done. It’s time to step away and do something else.”
“The community will suffer, but I can’t continue to stay there when the support’s not there for the department or the reserve deputies,” he said.
The town council is now left scrambling to replace the marshal and reserve deputies, who are the only law enforcement officers permitted to enforce Bunker Hill ordinances.
In the meantime, Miami County, Indiana, Sheriff Tim Miller said county deputies will patrol the town and respond to calls to ensure residents are protected until a new marshal is hired.
“At the end of the day, it’s the public that’s going to suffer, not the town board,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that the town finds itself in. But we’re going to take care of citizens’ needs in the interim. We will ensure they will have law enforcement present for the needs of the town.”
Beyond the police department, the town also was left without a building department Monday evening after Building Commissioner Bill Gornto submitted his resignation over complaints similar to the marshal.
“Due to the actions of the current town council, I find myself unable to continue in this job,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “This means you now have to notify the state building department that you no longer have a valid department.”
Council Vice President Jim Panther also submitted his resignation from the board effective at the end of the year. He cited personal reasons for his decision to step down from the position.
Gerber writes for the Kokomo, Indiana Tribune.