Mary Lee Cook, an 84-year-old resident of Oak Hill, Florida, didn’t seem like the kind of person who would secretly cultivate marijuana behind her home. Yet on June 6, deputies assigned to the East Volusia County Narcotics Task Force materialized on her doorstep in response to a tip that Cook was growing the illicit weed on her property.
Diane Young, Chief of the Oak Hill Police Department, had already visited the scene. Without notifying Cook or presenting a search warrant, Young had climbed a fence and taken photographs of the offending plants.
The deputies searched Cook’s backyard and found a half-dozen desiccated pot plants. Under what is advertised as the “law,” this was sufficient evidence to justify arresting the octogenarian and seizing her property. In this case, however, the deputies destroyed the plants and dropped the charges.
It was her considerable good fortune that Cook was the Mayor of Oak Hill, a town of about 1,500 people. She had inherited that position just a few weeks earlier when her immediate predecessor, Darla Lauer, resigned in disgust and frustration. The proximate cause of Lauer’s dismay was Chief Young – the same officer who had supposedly received the “tip” about Cook’s secret marijuana garden, and had used illegal means to take photographs of the contraband.
Young was appointed Oak Hill Police Chief in 2010 through a 3-2 vote by the Town Commission; Cook (at the time a Commissioner) and then-Mayor Darla Lauer cast the two negative votes. Prior to being selected as chief, Young was the city’s code enforcement officer – that is, she was a uniformed pest issuing petty extortion demands (also called “citations”) against local property and business owners. Young discovered her vocation for law enforcement relatively late in life, getting an associate’s degree in law enforcement and attending the academy at the age of 48.
In her application to the Oak Hill Police Force in 2002, Young admitted to an extensive history of drug use, which included marijuana, cocaine, and quaaludes. None of those substances should be prohibited, of course, and Young was never arrested or prosecuted for her drug use. She insists that she was not addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the scope of her admitted activity suggests otherwise. That behavior should have disqualified Young for a position on the force – and certainly should have been a deal-breaker for her appointment as chief. However, three members of the Town Commission were close personal friends of Young and were willing to approve her candidacy – and to place her personnel file where it would be inaccessible to the public.
Once ensconced as Chief, Young immediately vindicated her critics. She certified one newly hired officer, Brandy Sutherlin, as “fit for duty” – even though he failed a drug test immediately before being sworn in. Shortly thereafter, Sutherlin – who was off-duty at the time – got involved in a “road rage” incident in which he pursued another motorist on I-95 at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour while firing several shots at the fleeing vehicle.
At the time, Sutherlin’s three young children were in the car with him, a fact that prompted a 911 dispatcher to demand repeatedly that he stand down.
Young stubbornly defended Sutherlin’s actions until Henry Frederick, an independent journalist who runs the blog NSBNews.com, publicized the 9-11 recording. This prompted Sutherlin to resign – and then-Mayor Lauer to start pressing for Young’s resignation.
Last February, Young narrowly escaped being removed as Chief when a motion placed before the Town Commission resulted in a deadlock, with Lauer and Cook voting to remove the Chief. Describing herself as “fed up with the corruption under the command of an inept chief,” Lauer resigned and prepared to relocate to Alaska, where her husband had found work as an air traffic controller. Cook succeeded Lauer as Oak Hill Mayor just as the police department split open like a bloated carcass.
In late June – shortly after Young apparently tried to set up Cook for a phony drug arrest – Sgt. Manny Perez filed an affidavit accusing Young of ticket-fixing, sexual and ethnic harassment (such as grabbing him in intimate fashion and referring to him by such demeaning nicknames as “Mexican jumping bean”), and official corruption. Perez also claimed that after he expressed misgivings about Young’s performance to a member of the City Commission, the chief “initiated two (2) Internal Affairs investigations” against him.
Perez was accused of stealing gasoline and suspended from the force. The charge was later dismissed as “unfounded.” However, as a condition of being reinstated, he was compelled to sign a waiver promising not to pursue legal action against Young and the city government. In an interview with NSBNNews.net, Perez described Young as a shameless manipulator who “pits officer against officer and … gets them to do her bidding.”
Young, Perez insists, should “never have been promoted as chief or even hired as an officer in the first place since she has admitted to more than a hundred felonies” – meaning one hundred separate instances of cocaine use. The Oak Hill PD was a “sinking ship,” Perez lamented, with officers being driven out by a “coke-snorting police chief.”
On August 1, Mayor Cook finally obtained the long-pursued third vote to remove Young as Police Chief – and as an added bonus, the Commission simply liquidated the town’s entire six-member police force.
Even if we accept the unwarranted assumption that police help deter crime, we’re still left with this question: Why did Oak Hill, a minuscule town in which violent crime is practically non-existent, need a police force? That same question should be asked of scores or hundreds of other small towns, as well.
While Manny Perez appears to be a conscientious individual who would make a good hire for a private security company, the department itself seemed to exist only to provide patronage jobs for “Gypsy Cops” such as Brandy Sutherlin – who has been forced to leave three police departments since 2006 – and Mike Inhken, who was hired by Oak Hill after being cashiered by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office amid charges of theft.
Almost exactly a year before Oak Hill disbanded its corruption-plagued police department, the municipal government of Maywood, California was dissolved after being bankrupted through repeated lawsuits against its incurably thuggish police department. Other small towns across the country – such as Kilbruck, Pennsylvania; Columbus, New Mexico; Hoschton, Georgia; and Waukesha, Wisconsin – have dismissed their police forces, usually as an austerity measure.
Police forces – like practically everything else – were extravagantly over-built during the late economic bubble. Liquidation is a vital part of every economic correction, and dismantling local affiliates of the Homeland Security State is a splendid way to begin that process. This is why everyone blessed to live in a small town should share the story of Oak Hill’s successful police liquidation with the city council, coupled with this admonition: Go ye, therefore, and do likewise.
August 26, 2011