The mayor and board of aldermen are in a standoff over which Pacific officials should carry law enforcement-type badges.
Mayor Adams says it is wrong for aldermen to be issued badges that look like police officer badges and presented an ordinance that badges would be issued only to police and code enforcement officers.
Four aldermen rejected the ordinance. Walter Arnette, Mike Bates, Carol Johnson and Mike Pigg voted to keep their badges. Ed Gass and Steve Myers voted with the mayor.
Adams said as mayor, he is the person who issues badges and no additional badges will be issued during his administration.
He noted the history of Pacific aldermen carrying law enforcement type badges has not been good. He cited incidents going back to 1980 when an alderman would flash his badge at police officers that stopped him for a traffic violation.
“When I was out of office (from 1998 to 2006) we had one alderman who dressed in Army fatigues and showed up at a train derailment and I-44 accidents with a badge around his neck presenting himself as an officer,” Adams said.
In one 2003 public meeting, the late Ron Reed, who was police chief at the time, told an alderman who was showing up at police calls with a badge that if it happened again he (Reed) would arrest him for impersonating a police officer.
Adams said when he returned to office in 2006 he learned that metal badges, in leather wallet-like folders, identical to law enforcement officers, had been issued to elected officials.
Bates and Johnson have the badges that were issued under a previous administration.
“I want the public to know that from time to time I have weaknesses,” Adams said. “When I came back (to office) in 2006 they gave me a badge. I threw it in a drawer.”
Adams said against his better judgment he relented and issued badges to Pigg and Arnette. When Gass was elected as alderman for Ward 1, Adams offered him a badge and he refused it.
“Ed did not want a badge,” Adams said.
The mayor says he sees that the practice of aldermen carrying police-type badges to be wrong. There is good reason for a city to have a policy that only police officers carry law-enforcement type badges.
He said he decided to bring the ordinance after receiving calls from citizens voicing concerns about aldermen flashing their badges.
Bates said he opposed giving up his badge even though he had only used it during the 2008 flood so FEMA and state officials would allow him to enter the flood area.
“I can only assume that the only reason they were stopping people from being in the flood area is because they thought only first responders should be in the flood area,” Adams said. “The public and elected officials don’t belong there.”
When there is a flood or a fire, someone else is in charge, he said.
Adams said there are other ways for aldermen to identify themselves than by flashing a badge.
“Alderman can have business cards to identify themselves as aldermen, but shouldn’t carry police-like badges,” he said. “I have walked around this town and knocked on doors for 35 years and no one has ever asked me for a badge.”
Neither Gass nor Myers has a badge and Adams said he would not issue any badges in the future.
In recent years there have also been complaints of aldermen flashing their badge to give an impression of authority they do not have, the mayor said.
“You cannot enforce the law. You cannot give people directions. That’s the job of the police,” Adams said. “In my experience as mayor the use of these badges is a bad thing. When people see them they look like law enforcement badges.”
The mayor said he’s so serious about his concerns with the badges that he had brought the badge issued to him to the meeting in order to to turn it over to the city clerk.
The Missourian also has received calls from citizens about an alderman creating the impression that he has the powers of a police officer.