Civil Liberties

Meet a Town That's Had Enough of Militarized Policing


Barry Township PD
Barry Township PD Facebook page

Barry Township, Michigan, with a population of about 4,000, has four full-time police officers, four part-time officers, two Humvees, two armored personnel carriers (free, courtesy of the Defense Department's 1033 program)—and, until recently, about three dozen unpaid but armed and empowered reserve police officers patrolling the streets. All those cops need to find something to do with themselves, and many of the people of Barry Township are more than a bit bent out of shape that they've been on the receiving end of that something.

Writes L.L. Brasier of the Detroit Free Press:

Early morning May 10, Jack Nadwornik stepped behind Tujax Tavern, the bar and restaurant he has owned for 30 years in this small, western Michigan town.

Nadwornik, out drinking with friends for his 58th birthday, urinated in a corner of the empty parking lot because the bar was locked up.

Within seconds, two Barry Township police cars and three officers — two of them unpaid reserves — confronted him as he was zipping up his pants. What happened next is up for debate: Police said he resisted arrest. Nadwornick said he didn't, and a waitress who was leaving work agreed.

What everyone does agree on is the aftermath: Nadwornik had a broken hand from a police baton, bloody elbows, and he had been kneed in the back. He was handcuffed, jailed and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, a two-year felony.

If this was just a one-off incident, Nadwornik's friends would be bent out of shape and his lawyer would be prepping a lawsuit. But this is only one high-profile incident in a sleepy town where people complain that the cops are out of control, and police chief Victor Pierce justifies his paramilitary machine on the grounds of "terrorism, barricaded gunmen and mass shootings."

Oh, yeah. And God.

"I have preached a vision and the Lord put me here for a reason," he told the township board.

Barry Township
Barry Township

The township's insurance company finally forced the police chief to make his small army of reserve officers stand down and confine themselves to special events (it also forced the town of Oakley, population 290, to put its army of 100 reserve officers on ice).

After a packed town meeting last night that had to be moved to the high school to accommodate attendees, the township board unanimously voted to review Pierce's continuing employment in a special meeting to be held tonight.* A notice of the meeting occupies the township Website's entire front page.

So, one small step in rolling back the militarization of modern policing? Or just the latest bit of evidence that law enforcement in the United States has gone full-on into occupying enemy territory mode?

That might depend on the outcome of tonight's the meeting.

*The meeting is being rescheduled because of what sounds like public-notice requirements.

H/T to Geoffrey S. Nathan