The police chief who led a highly criticized raid of a small Kansas newspaper has been suspended, the mayor confirmed Saturday to The Associated Press.
Marion Mayor Dave Mayfield in a text said he suspended Chief Gideon Cody on Thursday. He declined to discuss his decision further and did not say whether Cody was still being paid.
Voice messages and emails from the AP seeking comment from Cody’s lawyers were not immediately answered Saturday.
The Aug. 11 searches of the Marion County Record’s office and the homes of its publisher and a City Council member were sharply criticized, putting Marion at the center of a debate over press protections offered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Cody’s suspension is a reversal for the mayor, who previously said he would wait for results from a state police investigation before taking action.
Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel, whose home also was raided Aug. 11, praised Cody’s suspension as “the best thing that can happen to Marion right now” as the central Kansas town of about 1,900 people struggles to move forward under the national spotlight.
“We can’t duck our heads until it goes away, because it’s not going to go away until we do something about it,” Herbel said.
Cody has said little publicly since the raids other than posting a defense of them on the police department’s Facebook page. In court documents he filed to get the search warrants, he argued he had probable cause to believe the newspaper and Herbel violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.
The raids came after a local restaurant owner accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about her. A spokesman for the agency that maintains those records said a newspaper reporter’s online search was likely legal even though the reporter needed personal information about the restaurant owner that a tipster provided to look up her driving record.