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Kansas police chief resigns after he was suspended for newspaper raid


A police raid on a small weekly newspaper in Kansas, the Marion County Record, put a spotlight on a battle over freedom of the press. Marion, Kan., is a town of about 2,000, and the police chief who conducted the controversial raid resigned this week, just days after being suspended. Blaise Mesa of the Kansas News Service reports.


BLAISE MESA, BYLINE: It was almost business as usual when the Marion City Council met just a day ago, and council members talked about street signs and beer gardens. But Mayor David Mayfield made a brief announcement towards the meeting's end.


DAVID MAYFIELD: A few minutes prior to this meeting tonight, I received information from Chief Cody that he is resigning his position as chief of police immediately - effective immediately.

MESA: Former Marion police chief Gideon Cody was suspended on Friday, and the resignation ends a two-month-long saga that started when the former police chief raided the newspaper office and home of one of its publishers.


JOAN MEYER: Don't you touch any of that stuff.

MESA: Video of the raid shows the exchange between the officers and 98-year-old Joan Meyer, the co-publisher of the Marion County Record.


MEYER: This is my house.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Ma'am. We're going to get out of here.


MEYER: You pat him. You [expletive].

MESA: Joan Meyer would die a day after this raid. Her son, the newspaper's editor and publisher, Eric Meyer, says the stress of the raid contributed to her death.

Police got a search warrant after a local business owner said the newspaper illegally obtained information about a DUI she got. But the Marion County Record and its lawyer say the raid was to stop reporters from looking into the then-police chief Cody's past. He had worked as a captain at the Kansas City Police Department, making $116,000 a year, but decided to take the chief's job in Marion for nearly half the salary. Reporters at the newspaper got a tip that Cody was facing discipline and demotion for sexist comments he made to a female officer at the Kansas City Police Department, information that was in a file that police looked at during the day of the raid. The newspaper's attorney, Bernie Rhodes, says he is glad Cody is gone.

BERNIE RHODES: Gideon Cody was a bully, and he thought he could intimidate the Marion County Record. He thought he could get away with it because he thought he was in the middle of nowhere. But what he didn't realize is that he could have run down the street of Marion naked and not have got the attention he got by executing this blatantly illegal and unconstitutional search.

MESA: Now, Marion's new interim police chief is Officer Zach Hudlin, who participated in the raid. The city has yet to discipline him, but Rhodes says Hudlin should be fired for going through a reporter's files and violating the terms of the search. During an interview today, Hudlin didn't want his voice used, but he says he's excited about the new role and knows the country is watching. He just wants people to give the agency an opportunity to grow. The newspaper's attorney, Bernie Rhodes, says the former police chief's resignation doesn't end this saga, and there is more court action to come.

For NPR News, I'm Blaise Mesa in Topeka.

(SOUNDBITE OF MINUTEMEN'S "COHESION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Blaise Mesa