The situation began on March 3, 2015 when rookie patrol man, officer Nicholas Pappe, made a routine stop on suspicion of a D.U.I. When he walked up to the vehicle, he found local prominent businessman Brian Haggard, owner of Haggard Excavation, waiting in the front seat. The officer began his investigation, and when Haggard caught on to the possibility that he might go to jail, he made a few phone calls to some friends on the city council. After that, a few more phone calls took place between those city officials, the police supervisors and Officer Pappe. At the same time, a highly unprecedented move was made by one particular city official, City Manager Kenny Weast, when he showed up to the traffic stop and tried to intervene in the roadside sobriety tests and pending arrest.
In the presence of his friend Weast, Haggard can be heard asking officer Pappe for the favor of letting “him off the hook”. Weast also inquired if he could take the intoxicated business owner home himself, another request that officer Pappe denied. His response was that the suspect had already blown above the legal limit of alcohol intoxication. The council member was also reported to have inquired on if the officer had contacted a supervisor with regard to the stop, to which the officer replied that he had, and then went through with the arrest anyways. Also included in the police report of the incident, that Haggard began to threaten the officer Pappe’s job, a credible threat considering the council member that showed up on Haggard’s behalf was Kenny Weast, who has the authority to hire or fire any officer on the force.
Rumors began to swirl around town that perhaps somehow Brian Haggard was going to be able to use his influence to make changes to the police force, using his business relationship with the city manager Kenny Weast. That brought the city council together on May 12th to discuss not only the future of Weast on the council himself, but also Officer Nicholas Pappe. The council decided to break the decision in two and first considered the actions of their fellow council member, Kenny Weast. Despite the highly unusual nature of the council member’s actions, and his obvious attempts to use his influence to help a friend avoid justice, the council voted 3 -1 to keep him on the board. The assistant Police Chief Travis Hogan was on hand that night and was surprised when after the vote was taken, the crowd erupted in applause. Hogan later said in an interview, "They hired us to do a job and we took an oath to do a job, and that job we did, and he did a great job at it. We were definitely put in our place.” Almost soon after, he also said that the police department became a hostile working environment, and that threats to all their jobs became common.
The second meeting convened on May 26th to decide the future of officer Nicholas Pappe. Pappe, still on new hire probation, needed to be voted onto the force by the same city council that Haggard’s friend Kenny Weast had a chair on. In a surprising move, the rookie was hired on full time by vote of the council, including an acceptance vote by Weast himself.
According to Hogan the threats to their jobs and harassment didn’t end there, despite the hire of Officer Pappe. It got to the point where Assistant Police Chief Hogan resigned his position effective July 1, 2015 citing fear of possible future harassment or litigation. After that, a plan quickly came to light of an attempt to fire the chief by the City Manager and then the rest of the force took matters back into their hands. All the remaining members of the Chelsea Police Department resigned, including Police Chief Chris Bohl. The only members to remain were some reserve officers and the Department Records clerk Val Donna. Donna has reported that reserve officer Terry Gorham has taken over interim Police Chief duties. Also the patrol duties have gone to Rogers County Sheriff.
There are multiple ways to look at this situation, yet still only one logical conclusion. The force resigned due to ethical reasons, but it is also clear that they hung on as long as they could, before they knew their time was up. It’s also clear that they had to leave when they did if it was going to be on their terms. That shouldn’t diminish the fact that they were simply doing their job and trying to uphold the law. What it perhaps is the biggest shame of all is the fact that in this country, where one has to look far to see a reason to trust the police, when they actually perform their duties in line with the public needs, even they can have their efforts negated by a person with money and privilege.