The village of Oakley, Michigan is easy to miss, even when you’re driving through it. There’s one stop light, and on either side are a gas station and a tavern/restaurant. 290 people call it home.
It’s also the home of one of the most bizarre secret police organizations in the United States. Tiny little Oakley has over 100 “reservist” police, who basically bought their badges from the police chief.
The reservists reportedly include high-profile Michigan lawyers, who use their nominal status as police officers to access police databases for cases, and NFL players who want to carry guns into stadiums, which would be illegal if they weren’t sort-of cops.
I say reportedly because the list of reservists is secret. Not just in that it hasn’t been made public, it’s preposterously secret. Like last month when the village finally managed to force the police to stop being police (because they had no insurance at the time and the village couldn’t afford the lawsuits), they asked the state police to try to help get all the equipment back, and conceded that even they have no clue who these “reservists” who have all their equipment are. Some of that equipment, reportedly, included Pentagon-provided gear, because a 290-person village surrounded by farmland clearly needs that.
The attempts to eliminate the police force began in September, failed, and continued up until the courts finally upheld the village council’s right to take away police powers they granted in the first place. That’s likely to be reversed, as the November election saw pro-police candidates sweep the vote, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Rather, the focus now is on already approved FOIA requests for the names of those secret police, filed in some cases by the village council members themselves. There had been no response from the police, other than a vague mention of ISIS, but now there’s an outright lawsuit.
According to the Saginaw News, the new lawsuit is filed by multiple John Does and the reservist force in general. Apparently they don’t even want the courts to know who they are, and the suit is once again citing the “perceived threat” from ISIS as a reason to keep their names, as police officers, secret from the public, from the village they putatively work for, from everybody.
The lawsuit goes on to accuse the owner of the tavern (who in a village this small you’ll find unsurprising was also a village council member) of plotting against the police over liquor law violations.
That too is a topic with a crazy amount of backstory, starting with a policeman unsuccessfully trying to pick up a waitress. This led to demands from the chief to fire her, and half a dozen harassment lawsuits from the tavern against the police chief, most of which the tavern-owner won, which were a big part in why Oakley’s old insurance company dropped them.
The lawsuit goes on to cite a Department of Homeland Security bulletin which warns that law enforcement should consider themselves targets for ISIS, which is a ridiculous claim in the ass-end of Saginaw County, and doubly so because these reservists aren’t remotely law enforcement officers. Rather, they just bought badges at a highish price so they could flout the law.
When I was five years old I had a little star-shaped metal badge that said “Sheriff” on it too. It was shaped like a star and came with a little toy gun. It didn’t cost thousands of dollars like these did, but it seems equally valid as a tool of law enforcement. It also seems equally likely to attract ISIS.