Marion, Kansas Police Chief Gideon Cody resigned Monday evening amid questions about a police raid to seize the data and hardware from local newspaper, the Marion County Record.
Cody’s resignation came two days after Marion Mayor Dave Mayfield suspended Cody.
Though the mayor did not provide details about the reasoning behind the suspension, Cody’s raid on the Marion County Record on August 11, in which computers, cellphones and reporting materials, was widely condemned.
The raid sparked involvement by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation—though Kansas State Attorney General Kris Kobach has said he doesn’t see the KBI’s role as investigating the conduct of the police.
The KBI did say five days after the raid that all seized materials had been returned to the newspaper.
The August raid commenced when a search warrant was granted to allow police to confiscate documents related to the alleged identity theft of Marion restaurant owner Kari Newell, who had kicked newspaper staff out of a public forum.
The newspaper’s co-owner and publisher Eric Meyer has insisted that no one’s identity was stolen.
Further, Officer Zach Hudlin, whom the mayor appointed to replace Cody, had also called the then-police chief’s attention to a confidential file at the newspaper that was beyond the scope of Cody’s later disavowed search warrant, detailing Cody’s alleged misdeeds before leaving the Kansas City Police Department under threat of demotion.
One day after police raided her home in August, the newspaper’s 98-year-old co-owner, Joan Meyer, Eric Meyer’s mother, passed away, and the Marion County Record attributed her death to stress related to the incident.
The raid has also raised First Amendment issues, with some legal experts pointing to the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, which broadly prohibits law enforcement officials from searching for or seizing information from reporters.
The Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemned the police search, contending that there had been “no justification for the breadth and intrusiveness of the search—particularly when other investigative steps may have been available.”
The letter was signed by more than 30 major news outlets, including Reuters, the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Following Cody’s surprise announcement Monday, Hudlin told the Marion County Record that he would resume providing the newspaper with weekly reports of police activities—a 50-year practice that had been halted under Cody.