A small-town police chief who ordered a raid on a local newspaper and the homes of its publisher and a councilwoman has been put on leave.
Chief Gideon Cody of Marion, Kansas, was suspended by Mayor Dave Mayfield last Thursday, but the mayor did not give any reasons or say if Cody was still getting paid.
The raid on Aug. 11 sparked outrage and raised questions about press freedom under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Cody claimed he had evidence that the Marion County Record and Councilwoman Ruth Herbel, whose home was also searched, had committed identity theft or computer crimes.
He based his allegations on a complaint from a restaurant owner who said the newspaper had illegally accessed her information online.
However, a state official said the newspaper’s online search was probably legal and only required personal information from a source.
The mayor’s decision to suspend Cody was a change from his previous stance of waiting for the results of a state investigation.
Herbel, who is also the vice-mayor, welcomed the suspension and said it was “the best thing that can happen to Marion right now” as the small town of about 1,900 people tries to cope with the national attention. She said the town needs to take action to resolve the issue and not hide from it.
Cody has not spoken much publicly since the raid except for posting a defense of it on the police department’s Facebook page. The 98-year-old newspaper owner and mother to the current publisher died the day following the raid.