4 police officers resign in Holdenville, including chief, citing issues with city council

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HOLDENVILLE, Okla. (KFOR) – Four police officers, including the chief, have resigned in October in the small town of Holdenville, citing issues with the City Council.

A City Council meeting was held Tuesday night to address some of the issues. However, both main items for it were tabled. When given a chance to address it, the councilman in question, Bill Freeman, referred us to his professional Facebook page to look at his rebuttals against the claims.

“It’s a vicious political war,” said Cameron Grizzle, a now-former police officer in Holdenville who resigned just last Saturday.

“We were getting railroaded,” said Billy Robertson, another former police officer that resigned the same day as Grizzle.

The two former officers spoke out Tuesday night after the four resignations, including the chief, took place in October.

“The last thing I want is politics being put in my life. I just want to be able to do my job and go home,” Grizzle said.

“They can’t tell us how to do our jobs because they have no idea,” Robertson said.

Grizzle said he had issues with Freeman after an issue where Freeman’s friend had stuff stolen off her back porch. He alleges Freeman called him demanding he arrest the thief caught on camera. However, Grizzle said he could only file for an arrest warrant since it didn’t happen when he was there.

“I did it fully within the law,” Grizzle said. “I get it he was frustrated, but I can’t break the law.”

Now former Holdenville police chief Conny Clay cited the same concerns over Freeman and Councilwoman Amber Orr in a resignation letter that can be read below. In it, he states that the two became more aggressive toward the police department when they got elected, adding that Freeman “abused his power as a member of the city council and ordered a police officer to make an illegal arrest.”

Photo goes with story
Holdenville community members supporting their police.

Freeman declined KFOR’s request for an interview and instead referred us to his professional Facebook page where he called Clay’s claims “false.”

In two posts, Freeman said he never directed an officer to arrest anyone. He claims he only wanted the officer to make the woman “feel safe.” Freeman added that “If standing up for what is right…I will do it every time…I will NOT ALLOW BULLIES to control my doing what the citizens voted me in to do.”

Orr stated in Tuesday’s council meeting that she was not aggressive and only asked questions at times.

At times during that same meeting, the councilmembers took shots at one another as well.

“We don’t need any more name-shotting,” a councilmember said during the meeting. “There’s an agenda item, let’s vote on it and not give the rest of Oklahoma something to laugh about.”

Only three officers remain on the Holdenville police force in a town of about 5,500. The mayor announced that the council is set to have another meeting Thursday night to “address some issues.”

The chief’s full resignation letter is as follows:

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to notify you that my last day as Chief of Police of Holdenville will be October 1, 2021.

This decision was not an easy one to make and I apologize for the short notice. When I came to Holdenville, the city council in place at the time was very supportive of me and the police department. They hired me because they said they wanted a professional police department. I attempted to find qualified officers, but they were few and far apart. Last April when Bill Freeman was elected along with three other new council members, the council quickly turned against me. It became apparent that Freeman’s goal was to replace both the mayor and myself. He set out to make my position into an elected office, rather than appointed, which would eliminate my position as chief. Throughout recent weeks, Freeman and Amber Orr have become much more aggressive toward me and the police department, including profanity toward a police officer and myself when Freeman abused his power as a member of the city council and ordered a police officer to make an illegal arrest. Following the incident, his wife posted on social media about how sorry and worthless the police department is.

On September 7, 2021, Freeman started an aggressive campaign against me by breaching my contract in an open meeting of the city council, revoking my benefit of a take-home vehicle. He and Orr continued this campaign by trying to change the position of chief of police to an elected position. Freeman continues to interfere with police business, even after being reprimanded.

If being publicly criticized in open meetings and online by city council members wasn’t enough, on September 21, 2021, Sheriff Marcia Maxwell wrote an open letter to the council and presented it in a public meeting, criticizing both me and my department. I was shocked at this unprofessionalism and public criticism from a fellow law enforcement officer. If I ever have a problem with a fellow officer of the law, I handle it privately and discreetly. I did agree with Sheriff Maxwell that the city council should stay out of police business and stop trying to micro-manage the department, however, I couldn’t believe she chose to tell the entire city instead of coming to me personally. This for me was the final straw. When the citizens, the council, and other local law enforcement agencies are publicly criticizing me, I have no more desire to put in all the hours I have had to put in to hold this department together with only 4 officers (including myself).

I think that Holdenville has a lot of good, decent people that want what is best for Holdenville. With Freeman and Orr swaying the council’s vote, I believe that this department is doomed to fail, regardless of what I do, giving me no other recourse but to resign. The good people of Holdenville need their voices to be heard.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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