A cop in Chelsea, Oklahoma — population: 1,959 — thought he had a routine DUI arrest at a traffic stop about two weeks ago. But what should have been a normal occurrence of an officer doing his duty suddenly turned into a nightmare for the small town police department, with both the arresting officer and even the assistant police chief on the receiving end of threats and forced to defend their very jobs.
Why? It all had to do with the driver of the vehicle pulled over by Officer Nicholas Pappe that night in the outwardly-idyllic small town. That man was Brian Haggard, a prominent local businessman.
Before Pappe could even complete the arrest, other local big shots, including the Chelsea police chief and city manager, were on the phone, and even showing up at the scene of the traffic stop, trying to get their buddy off the hook, according to a report on local TV station KTUL.
Not only did they want Haggard to be exempt from a DUI arrest, they didn’t even want him to get a ticket.
“I was shocked when I received the phone call from the police commissioner. I thought he knew better than that,” Assistant Chief Travis Hogan (pictured above) told the TV station. “But for him to call me and ask me if I would allow him to leave his home to the traffic stop and pick that individual up and take him home in lieu of even a citation much less an arrest, I find that highly unethical.”
Pappe went through with the arrest anyway, despite the ominous phone call. But not before the small own’s city manager personally showed up on the scene.
“He says, ‘Did you talk to the chief?’ ” Hogan recounted. “It’s not that he showed up and tried to prevent my officer from doing anything, but it was just his mere presence. I mean that is so rare for a city manager. This, I believe in my four and a half years, this is the one and only time the city manager has come to a traffic stop.”
Haggard reportedly asked Pappe for a “free pass,” but the officer would not comply. In the ensuing two weeks, both Pappe and Hogan have had their jobs threatened, the assistant chief says.
The incident is reminiscent of other cases of what has come to be called “affluenza,” meaning the unequal treatment of wealthy or powerful suspects, who are given “free passes” or reduced punishments seemingly due to their social or economic status.
Haggards refused to be interviewed by the TV station — as did the city manager and police chief — but Haggard did deny making threats and told KTUL that the police officers “are ruining the reputation of the city.”
“He has made it a point to tell anybody that will listen in this town that ‘I will have the job of the chief, the assistant chief, and Nick Pappe.’ “
The problem, says Hogan, is that the small town is operated by a “a good ol’ boy system,” and that the extreme response to one cop carrying out a routine duty has “kind of put a wedge in the town.”
[Image: KTUL TV Screen Grab]