Ridgetop City Council members voted to do away with the city’s police force Monday because of what some people say is the mayor’s hurt ego and his vendetta against the now-former police chief.
As The Tennessee Star reported in March, then-Police Chief Bryan Morris said Mayor Tony Reasoner and Vice Mayor McCaw Johnson were out to cripple his department.
Morris said the two men demanded his officers issue a certain number of tickets every month to generate revenue for the town. Morris then made this information public.
No one at the Ridgetop City Hall answered the phone Tuesday to offer their version of events.
But when this new week started the fix was already in, Morris said.
“It’s retaliation,” Morris said.
“They took all our guns, our badges, our cars and our equipment — and then they booted us out.”
What’s more, city officials began changing the locks on the police department’s front doors before city council members even gathered to take their vote, Morris said.
With the police department a thing of the past, Rutherford County sheriff’s deputies will respond to any and calls for law enforcement out of Ridgetop.
But the community’s safety is now at risk, Morris told The Star.
“Just last week we had a guy go into our bank who was trying to pass a fraudulent check, which has happened several times. They ended up calling and saying ‘Hey, this is a bad check.’ The guy took off running, and we just happened to be two blocks away,” Morris said.
“We ended up catching him on foot in front of city hall 10 minutes later. If that happens this coming Monday then that guy won’t get caught. Period. Won’t happen. The response time for my department is three minutes. The average response time for the county is running about 33 minutes.”
City resident Brent Martin said he also believes city officials acted out of spite.
“Now we have a crisis. The department has been here more than 40 years. The city charter says the city must have a police force. One man’s ego and vengeance is dominating this,” Martin said.
Reasoner told The Tennessean he and council members disbanded the police department because the city can no longer afford to have it.
But Reasoner had other options, Martin said.
“The mayor never even asked if the city wanted a referendum on whether raise property taxes (to pay for the force) or to do away with police force,” Martin said.
The Star asked Morris if the Ridgetop Police Department would still exist if someone else was chief and the mayor and the council got along better with that person.
“Yes. No doubt in my mind,” Morris said.
“If I would have quit then they would have appointed a new chief and things would keep rolling.”
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Police Chief Bryan Morris” by Bryan Morris and “Ridgeport Police Department” by Ridgeport Police Department.