Holdenville, OK – Four police officers – including the police chief – resigned from the Holdenville Police Department last week, citing problems with members of the city council.
The four resignations were submitted to the town of Holdenville the first week of October, leaving the police department with just two officers and no officials, KFOR reported.
Now-former Holdenville Police Officer Cameron Grizzle said he submitted his resignation on Saturday because policing in the small town of about 5,500 residents has become political.
“It’s a vicious political war,” Grizzle told KFOR on Tuesday. “The last thing I want is politics being put in my life. I just want to be able to do my job and go home.”
Now-former Holdenville Police Officer Billy Robertson agreed and told KFOR that police officers “were getting railroaded.”
“They can’t tell us how to do our jobs because they have no idea,” Robertson said.
Grizzle said he had problems with Holdenville City Councilman Bill Freeman after he tried to get involved in the officer’s response to a theft at the home of a friend.
The now-former law enforcement officer said Freeman called him and demanded that he arrest the thief who had been caught on the friend’s security camera stealing things off of her back porch, KFOR reported.
“I have to work within the law,” he told KWTV. “There is a certain arrest I had to get an arrest warrant on. I couldn’t just go to his house and arrest him out of his front door for the crime that was committed. It was a misdemeanor not committed in my presence.”
He said Freeman became irate when he refused to lock someone up and said he could only file for an arrest warrant since the crime hadn’t happened in front of him.
“I did it fully within the law,” Grizzle told KFOR. “I get it he was frustrated, but I can’t break the law.”
Now-former Holdenville Police Chief Conny Clay said he had the same sort of problems with some city council members and addressed them in his resignation letter.
Clay, a law enforcement veteran, was the Choctaw police chief before he joined the Holdenville police, KWTV reported.
In the letter, Clay said he was hired by supportive city council who wanted a professional police department, but things had changed, KFOR reported.
“Last April when Bill Freeman was elected along with three other new council members, the council quickly turned against me,” the former chief explained in the letter. “It became apparent that Freeman’s goal was to replace both the mayor and myself. He set out to make my position into an elected office, rather than appointed, which would eliminate my position as chief.”
He went on to describe an environment where Freeman and Holdenville City Councilwoman Amber Orr behaved aggressively toward him and his officers, including swearing at them, KFOR reported.
Clay said Freeman’s wife even posted to social media that the Holdenville Police Department was “sorry and worthless,” according to the resignation letter.
He said Freeman had his take-home vehicle revoked in September and had continued to interfere in police business despite having been reprimanded about such behavior, KFOR reported.
Clay said it was the last straw when Hughes County Sheriff Marcia Maxwell publicly criticized him and his department in an open letter to the city council.
“I was shocked at this unprofessionalism and public criticism from a fellow law enforcement officer. If I ever have a problem with a fellow officer of the law, I handle it privately and discreetly. I did agree with Sheriff Maxwell that the city council should stay out of police business and stop trying to micro-manage the department, however, I couldn’t believe she chose to tell the entire city instead of coming to me personally,” the now-former police chief wrote.
“This for me was the final straw. When the citizens, the council, and other local law enforcement agencies are publicly criticizing me, I have no more desire to put in all the hours I have had to put in to hold this department together with only 4 officers (including myself),” the frustrated law enforcement veteran wrote.
“I think that Holdenville has a lot of good, decent people that want what is best for Holdenville,” Clay said. “With Freeman and Orr swaying the council’s vote, I believe that this department is doomed to fail, regardless of what I do, giving me no other recourse but to resign.”
Holdenville Mayor John Massad said the two remaining Holdenville police officers were doing their best and would receive assistance from the Hughes County Sheriff’s Office and local tribal police until the department could be re-staffed, KWTV reported.
“I appreciate everything that Chief Clay did,” Massad said at the Oct. 5 council meeting. “He came into this when it was a mess, tried to straighten it up as best as he could.”