MOUNT VERNON — A Mount Vernon Police Officer told the News the resignation of a well-respected detective was the last straw, prompting him to break his silence and speak candidly regarding what goes on inside the Mount Vernon Police Department.
On Monday, Craig Feeney, longtime detective with the department, tendered his resignation.
“It’s a phenomenal loss,” the officer said. “That’s what prompted this phone call. ... Seeing a good officer leave, that’s really a heartbreaker there.”
The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he can’t speak for all the department employees but feels his concerns are shared by the majority, especially in regard to the city administration’s decision to keep Chief Mike Merrilees and Sgt. Robert “Kit” Morgan on the job while being investigated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the Ohio Ethics Commission.
“I am extremely disappointed,” he said. “As a whole, administration has done nothing. Morgan and Merrilees should be on administrative leave the same as other people.”
The officer is referring to former city employees Shawn Christy and Greg Vickers, who were both placed on leave while being investigated by MVPD detectives.
“The city is just sand bagging on stuff. It’s that they aren’t acting on it. They hold up a magical cup saying, ‘BCI will be here and they will take care of everything.’” If the two were placed on administrative leave, “it would definitely reinstate our faith in administration. Right now we have none,” he said.
When asked how officers will respond to questioning by BCI with Merrilees and Morgan at the station, the News was told there will be some who will be apprehensive because they don’t want their jobs to be in jeopardy.
“I’m taking a hell of a chance talking to you now,” he said.
Why take the chance, the News asked.
“I’ve had enough. Losing some of our best officers because of these two. It’s got to stop. It’s got to stop. We want the police department to be a respected agency in the community. We have qualified, good officers. You don’t leave two rotten apples in the bushel to let the whole thing rot.”
Since the News started publishing stories following its investigation into allegations of improper conduct by Merrilees and Morgan on May 24, the officer said the usual public scrutiny has escalated.
“This has wrecked any public trust we ever had,” he said. “With everyday that Merrilees and Morgan remain on the job, the public’s trust in the department slips away.”
He explained that there are always those who have a dislike for law enforcement, but now the entire department has been open to criticism based on the actions of two men.
“We get comments all the time like, ‘Hey, are there any used cars for sale at the car lot?’ or ‘I always knew cops were crooked,’ things of that nature,” he said.
The situation that has been created, he said, is most unfortunate for the officers who take their job — and position in the public — seriously.
“We are held more accountable than the rest,” he said. “We put on a badge everyday that represents honor, truthfulness and integrity. [Merrilees and Morgan] are textbook examples of what you should not do. In the police academy they teach you that on the first day. We have to be held to higher standards above everyone else. We have officers that excel at that.”
While at the department, the officer said that not only is morale low, but there is a constant threat of humiliation and verbal abuse. He said it is not unusual for Merrilees to belittle employees publicly with “snide and rude comments. He’s relentless.” He said this behavior creates a “miserable” work environment.
The officer explained that he doesn’t have an ax to grind or some ulterior motive to voice his concerns, but he wants city administration, City Council and the public to understand that there are good officers working the streets everyday and that they should not be judged by the actions of Merrilees or Morgan. Unfortunately, as long as Merrilees and Morgan remain on the job, he fears that will remain a tough obstacle for officers to overcome.
“There are a bunch of good officers that want to go to work and do good things,” he said.
Editor’s note: The News submitted a public records request on Monday for a copy of Feeney’s resignation letter as well as his personnel file. As of press time, there has been no response from city administration regarding the request.
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