By Lorne Dey
Basehor, Kansas – When the act of bullying comes to mind one tends to think that it is primarily a problem that kids and school principals have to deal with. But sometimes it’s an issue adults must cope with as well. Such appears to be the case for Jason Cory who worked as a police officer in Basehor Kansas from September 2007 to July 2010 and is now suing the city for his culminating wrongful termination.
Cory’s lawsuit alleges that although many city officials considered him an exemplary officer, during his nearly three years on Basehor’s police force he was regularly “ridiculed and belittled” by Police Chief Lloyd Martley and his right-hand man, Lieutenant Robert Pierce.
It seems Cory’s ill treatment at the hands of his superiors wasn’t because he was a bad officer, but apparently because he was guilty of performing his job too well and for “speaking out about ongoing policies and conditions… which he considered dangerous and/or unethical”.
The lawsuit states that in one instance, he was inexplicably ordered by Chief Martley not to report as a crime a clear case of identity theft involving the stolen social security number and forged signature of a local citizen. When Cory attempted to follow correct police procedure by filling out the necessary paperwork for the crime, Chief Martley reportedly became “enraged”.
Other highly suspect, “accepted” practices were also allegedly met with a blind eye by Chief Martley such as on-duty officers “disappear[ing] for extended periods” or “to sleep on the job” thereby leaving fellow officers without backup. The lawsuit alleges that when Cory attempted to express his concerns about these issues and others, he was “warned” by his superiors “to mind his own business, to stop talking and to stop asking questions”.
One particularly dangerous allegation involved shotgun shells being repeatedly removed from police shotguns stowed in patrol cars. When Cory reported the problem to Chief Martley he was told, “It’s not my [Martley’s] responsibility” and, “it is no concern of yours [Cory’s]”. Apparently, the safety of police officers along with the citizens they are supposed to protect is no concern of Martley’s. When Cory told Lt. Pierce about the problem concerning the shotguns, Pierce reportedly told him he was a “F*****g… goober” and that he is “the only person that comes in here and asks stupid questions”.
In another instance Cory reported that he was physically assaulted by Lt. Pierce in the presence of Chief Martley, which resulted in no subsequent action taken against Pierce by the department. Cory was ultimately compelled to report the incident to the Leavenworth County Sheriff after he was unable to get Martley or then city administrator, Mark Loughry [who has since been fired for allegedly other unethical practices], to respond appropriately.
For reasons involving additional “costs”, as the lawsuit alleges, it was also important to Chief Martley that his officers not be first responders to emergency calls that involved the fire department or emergency medical personnel (EMTs). In one instance, according to the lawsuit, Cory witnessed officers being “berated” by both Chief Martley and Lt. Pierce for being the first on the scene where a 9-year-old boy was reported to be experiencing a severe asthma attack that ultimately led to the child’s death. It appears that Chief Martley wants his officers, who are trained in CPR and other first responder training, to hold back in such cases until others can arrive on the scene and be responsible for making first responder decisions – yet another dangerous policy for citizens relying on a police department that is supposed to make public safety its highest priority. In addition, according to the lawsuit, Chief Martley’s response to the above incident was, “What kind of morons run with lights and sirens to a dead kid”.
Finally, in July of 2010, Officer Cory received a telephone call from Chief Martley telling him he was being terminated. Although, according to the lawsuit, no explanation for his termination was stated at the time, Cory had allegedly already been told by Martley that “if he wanted to let… [Cory] go he could do so at any time for any reason”. Martley had allegedly also told Cory previously that he “could let… [Cory] go at any time despite… [Cory’s] claim of hostile work environment provided that he [Martley] could create a pretext to give the department and the city a claim of ‘just cause’”. Also, according to the lawsuit, Martley added, “if anyone questions the basis for your termination, they will always ‘go with the investigators’” – Chief Martley and Lt. Pierce being the “investigators”.
When this reporter attempted to contact several former city officials who could shed light on Cory’s situation and other allegations of corruption within the city, few were willing to share their experiences. However, one former city council member who knew both the plaintiff and defendants in the lawsuit stated that he would “lean toward” Cory’s case having merit. However, the unwillingness of so many to talk about what goes on inside Basehor’s government makes this reporter wonder if there is a prevailing climate of fear – of either lawsuits or threat of retaliation – residing within the people in and around the township of Basehor Kansas.
As a result of his experiences working for Basehor PD and the hardship his alleged wrongful termination has had on his family, Cory is now advocating special legislation designed to specifically protect first responders in both fire and police departments, including EMTs, from wrongful termination and unjust retaliation by their superiors. Cory contends that often police, fire personnel, and EMTs who arrive first on the scene of a crime, fire, or health-related emergency often have to make split-second decisions that sometimes don’t turn out to be the best solution for the situation. Cory asserts that official personnel should not have to risk losing their jobs or face unfair harassment as a result of difficult decisions made under highly stressful conditions, reporting public corruption, or, in some instances, even having to ticket or arrest a government official. Cory contends that non-public employees have many resources to turn to if they allege wrongful termination from their jobs, but government employees like police and firefighters have almost none. Cory’s bill seeks to change that. To learn more about Cory and his legislation, go to Facebook and search: protectthebadge.com.
Perhaps the good people of Basehor who read this article will demand more accountability from those who are hired to protect the people they serve, including police officers, and the stress that Officer Cory and his family have gone through will not be in vain.