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Police Chief, Asst. Chiefs Resign Days Before Mayor Hit With Slew Of Charges

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer told the chief to pull out of the county's drug task force after his stepson was arrested.

Michigan City, IN – The mayor of Michigan City is facing a slew of criminal charges and the entire leadership of his police department has resigned with just two days to go until the mayoral election on Nov. 5.

The problems started after Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer’s stepson was arrested on drug charges in October, WNDU reported.

Meer accused LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney John Lake of targeting his stepson, 33-year-old Adam Bray, for political purposes, according to WSBT.

“It was brought to my attention by a confidential informant that he was directed by the La Porte County prosecutor’s office and a member of the drug task force to target my son,” the mayor said in a statement released on Oct. 14. “”It is no coincidence this is occurring just a couple of weeks before the election.”

Then the mayor told Michigan City Police Chief Mark Swistek to stop cooperating with the LaPorte County Drug Task Force that had arrested his stepson.

Chief Swistek and Assistant Police Chiefs Royce Williams and Kevin Urbanczyk submitted their resignations together on Oct. 22, with the chief citing “unacceptable risk” as his primary reason for leaving his leadership post, WSBT reported.

“Your directive to me this evening to withdraw all cooperation and participation in the LaPorte County Drug Task Force and to reassign the officers who are currently attached to the Task Force places the Michigan City community at unacceptable risk,” the chief wrote in his resignation letter, which was shared on the Michigan City Police Department’s official Facebook page.

“I am simply unable to reconcile my oath of office with your directive for me to withdraw our Department’s participation in the Task Force, reassign the talented and committed members of the Michigan City Police Department who are currently serving the unit with the utmost integrity, dedication, and professionalism asked of them,” he continued.

In the letter, Chief Swistek reminded Meer that Michigan City had been designated a “high-intensity drug trafficking area” and that the federal government had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in interdiction.

“I do not know whether your decision is related to your step-son’s recent arrest by the Task Force,” he wrote. “But I do know that your decision is not in the interest of public safety, that it places the people of this great community in harm’s way. Without any drug enforcement, Michigan City will be less safe to live and a more dangerous place for law enforcement to work.”

The chief, who is a 27-year veteran of the police force, closed the letter by saying that he couldn’t serve the mayor’s wishes and the needs of the Michigan City community at the same time.

The mayor released a statement two days later that reaffirmed his commitment to the community and claimed that he and his family had been under an extraordinary amount of stress.

“This morning, I apologized for my choice of words to the Chief during a private, heated discussion, and I apologize to the members of the Michigan City Police Department, especially the detectives currently assigned to the Drug Task Force,” Meer wrote.

“I did not mean what I said to Chief Swistek and I had no intention of reassigning any officers on the LaPorte County Drug Task Force or withdrawing cooperation and participation of the Michigan City Police Department on said task force,” the mayor insisted.

Meer appointed a new police chief on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, the mayor was charged by the county prosecutor with five counts of intimidation, two counts of false informing, and one count of official misconduct, WSBT reported.

The false informing charges are misdemeanors and the intimidation and misconduct charges are sixth-degree felonies.

Court documents showed that the judge assigned to Meers’ case, Judge Richard R. Stalbrink, quickly recused himself from the case because his wife is the corporate counsel for Michigan City, WNDU reported.

Michigan City Police School Resource Officer Dion Campbell was tapped by Meer to be the new police chief, WSBT reported.

Sandy Malone - November Sun, 2019

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