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John Homan: A fine line between good police work and harassment

By John Homan
Managing editor
updated: 1/20/2018 2:47 PM

The lines can sometimes blur when trying to make a distinction between good cop versus bad cop.

We reported earlier this week in the Marion Republican the case of David Sloan, a resident of Johnston City, arguing to the mayor and city council last week that his rights as a citizen had been grossly abused by the police.

In a nutshell, Sloan said he was walking outside his home in the cold weather and was wearing a fleece hoodie pulled over his nose to help protect himself from the elements. He was spotted by police officers and questioned.

What exactly transpired between officers and Mr. Sloan is left to our imagination. Sloan, 58, said he was verbally abused by the officers and eventually arrested. Police Chief Will Stark said there had been a recent home burglary in the neighborhood and Sloan was wearing clothing that covered most of his face, which made him a suspicious character. Stark added that Sloan was not cooperative and later made a threatening comment to the arresting officer.

Our reporter, Chanda Green, reported that Sloan and some other residents in the community feel the police are overstepping their bounds.

Conversely, other residents are comforted, she reported, in knowing the police are proactive in preventing crime from occurring in their community.

The mayor -- Jim Mitchell -- is a staunch supporter of his officers and said the entire Sloan arrest incident was overblown.

"The only thing I can say is that I have complete confidence in our police department and in our chief," Mitchell said.

The state's attorney for Williamson County -- Brandon Zanotti, himself a JC resident -- is withholding judgment ... for now.

Zanotti did say that he intends to meet with both Sloan and Stark in the days ahead. He also confirmed that JC officers had written more traffic tickets last year than Marion, a city four times the size of Johnston City.

That information does raise an eyebrow does it not? Are these all legitimate offenses or are officers simply looking for any possible reason to write a ticket to build up the city's general fund?

Truth is, we don't really know what to believe at this point.

"In today's climate, police aren't very well respected," Stark said. "We are a very proactive department, and because of that, we have reduced the amount of illegal drugs and the number of burglaries in Johnston City."

The job of a police officer is a difficult one, and at times, a dangerous one.

That said, it's important that officers don't make the citizens they are sworn to protect victims of overzealous behavior. It's a fine line to walk.

It is our hope that relations will soon normalize in the community and there will be no further need for citizens to speak out against their protectors at a city council meeting. We will be watching -- and hoping.