News & Politics

Indiana Town's Entire Police Force Quits, Citing Requests to 'Do Illegal, Unethical and Immoral Things'

Every single police officer in Bunker Hill, Indiana (population 888), walked off the job Monday night, blaming the town council for a lack of communication, insufficient gear, and requests to “do illegal, unethical and immoral things,” Fox 59 reported.

“We have had issues with the town board and there are some activities there where I felt like they were serving their own agenda,” said former Bunker Hill Town Marshal Michael Thomison.

Thomison served as town marshal for four years until Monday night when he and four other officers handed over resignation letters to the council, telling them they have had enough.

“They would not communicate with us or the officers and they kept scaling back,” said Thomison.

In their resignation letters, the officers accuse council members of asking them to “do illegal, unethical, and immoral things.” They cited examples like asking police to run background checks on other town councilors to find their criminal history. The officers also claim they were threatened when they said no.

Another issue they brought up in the letter was their safety. The officers say they were all forced to share one set of body armor, putting their lives on the line while they were out making arrests and serving warrants.

“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. 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,” said Thomison.

Thomison also cited his treatment after being diagnosed with cancer as one of his reasons for resigning. He said that he was ready to return to work in May, but they would only let him work part time. “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,” said Thomison.

He plans to file a lawsuit against the town council.

The other officers said they did not want to step down but felt they had to, Thomison said.  The town is currently relying on outside help as it searches for new officers.

Meanwhile, two other Bunker Hill leaders recently tendered their resignations as well.

Citing personal reasons, Council Vice President Jim Panther submitted his resignation from the board, which will take effect at the end of the year, and Bunker Hill Building Commissioner Bill Gornto’s resignation leaves the town without a building department.

“Due to the actions of the current town council, I find myself unable to continue in this job,” Gornto 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 President Brock Speer told reporters the council was “blindsided” by the resignations; meanwhile, council members accepted the resignations with little comment.

On Wednesday night, the town of Bunker Hill issued the following statement:

Like most small towns, there have been from time to time, disagreements in the policy making process between the town council and other town departments. 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. The council is well aware of Indiana law on the topic and has complied with it fully. Further, 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.

The council admits that it had made a number of cuts to the police department over the last few years. This was a decision the town made due to a lack of funding. Bunker Hill is diligently working to solve this problem for the coming year. The cuts made to the police department were not made with the intention of jeopardizing the safety of any of the town’s police officers. Over the last few years, the Council has made attempts to find additional money for the department. Mr. Thomison was instrumental in obtaining a large sum of money on behalf of the town. However, he fails to state that the police department received the benefit of a large portion of that funding.

As Mr. Thomison has stated, there is currently a lawsuit pending against the town relating to Indiana’s Open Door Law. The council denies that it has violated Indiana’s Open Door Law in any manner. However, the council will not comment further on this topic as the litigation is still pending.

The resignation of the entire police force has come as a shock to the council. It has never been the goal to dismantle or otherwise endanger the town police department or officers. The council thanks these officers for their service to the town. 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.

Police blog Blue Lives Matter supported the Bunker Hill cops with the following statement:

We think it is unconscionable in today’s society to refuse to provide current, updated body armor for Police Officers.  It also is unethical and illegal to ask an Officer to run someone’s criminal history for personal, non-criminal reasons.  It is troubling to think of the hostile work environment that the Officers had to work in.   Finally, reducing an Officer to part-time because of the costs of the medical treatment for his cancer?  We support these former Bunker Hill Officers and Town Marshal in their resignation.