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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Police chief who ordered raid on Kansas newspaper resigns

By Eduardo Medina New York Times

The police chief of Marion, Kansas, who had ordered raids on the office of a local newspaper and the home of its publisher in August resigned Monday, an official said, after facing mounting questions over his officers’ aggressive actions against the news organization.

Marion Mayor David Mayfield told the City Council on Monday night that the former chief, Gideon Cody, resigned “effective immediately,” according to Zach Collett, a council member.

The council unanimously voted for the Marion Police Department’s most senior patrol officer, Zach Hudlin, to become acting police chief, Collett said in an email.

Cody, who was suspended Thursday, could not be reached for comment Monday , and the Kansas Peace Officers Association did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The Aug. 11 raids prompted criticism, particularly from First Amendment advocates who viewed the actions of the officers and two Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputies as dangerous and unnecessary.

One of the raids occurred at the office of the Marion County Record, a family-owned newspaper with a circulation of about 4,000 that reports on the city of roughly 2,000 residents about 50 miles north of Wichita. The second raid occurred at the home of its publisher, Eric Meyer. Officers seized the computers and phones of reporters and editors.

The search was part of what authorities said was an investigation into how a document containing information about a local restaurant owner had been obtained by the newspaper. The newspaper’s acquisition of the document may have constituted identity theft and computer crimes, authorities said.

Days before the raid, the Marion County Record had questioned Cody about the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Kansas City Police Department, though the paper’s reporting did not at the time result in a news article.

Meyer’s 98-year-old mother and the co-owner of the paper, Joan Meyer, died a day after the searches. Her son said her death was related in part to distress caused by the raid on their home.

Police also searched the home of council member Ruth Herbel, who had also received the document. Herbel’s lawyer has said that she independently received the same information and that she had broken no laws.

City leaders had faced questions about Cody’s hiring in the aftermath of the raids and after the Kansas City Star reported the chief had left his previous job at the Kansas City Police Department following accusations that he had made sexist and insulting comments.

More than 30 news organizations and press freedom advocates, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, signed a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemning the raid.

A judge had signed the search warrant about an hour before the raids, an action the chief later defended in an email, arguing that journalists are subject to search if they are suspected of committing a crime.

“I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” the chief said at the time.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.