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City was warned before hiring chief

Staff writer

“Cody has a shiny exterior, but when you dig deeper, it’s not very pretty.”

That’s what a Kansas City police officer said when asked by a Record reporter in April what he would tell Marion City Council members about Gideon Cody, then a candidate for top cop.

The Record took a deep dive into Cody’s background at the Missouri police department.

The newspaper revealed many of its findings to a city official who apparently was charged with checking Cody’s background, but he took no action.

The Record did not publish the findings because officers making comments would not provide their names for publication.

It is reporting their assertions now because other news organizations have begun publishing similar accounts from unnamed sources.

The Record’s investigation began after the paper published a story April 20 reporting that the city had chosen Cody, who earned $115,848 as a commander in Kansas City.

Cody agreed to be police chief in Marion for $60,000. He told the Record that he liked small towns and wanted to be closer to his children.

The two other candidates for Marion’s position were interim police chief and longtime Marion officer Duane McCarty and part-time officer Chris Mercer.

McCarty has since resigned from the department and taken a job as an officer in Hillsboro. His last day in Marion was Friday. He started duty Monday in Hillsboro.

Cody agreed to be police chief in Marion for $60,000. He told the Record that he liked small towns and wanted to be closer to his children.

The newspaper saw a dramatic spike in web traffic for its April 20 story about Cody.

Soon after, a Record reporter started receiving phone calls from officers and sergeants who had worked under Cody in Kansas City.

The first call came from the husband of a police sergeant who reported directly to Cody.

Several sources said Cody was about to be demoted from commander to sergeant — the department doesn’t have lieutenants — because Cody had made belittling, sexist comments to the sergeant, creating a hostile work environment.

The reporter asked to interview her, but her husband said she wouldn’t talk out of concern for her career.

Other people who called would talk, but they wouldn’t do so on the record. The Record interviewed seven of Cody’s former colleagues. Some also had left the department. Others still worked there.

The Record shared some of its findings with city council member Zach Collett on April 21.

The paper previously had reported on-the-record concerns about a candidate for city administrator — Mark Skiles. The city hired Skiles but fired him after only a few months on the job, a pattern the Record had discovered occurred previously in his career.

A reporter called Collett on May 1, hours before a city council meeting, to again discuss the allegations against Cody.

The week before, Collett had said he had accessed Cody’s records and wasn’t concerned. The reporter specifically asked whether he was referencing Cody’s official KCPD records.

Later, he said he inquired about Cody to Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training — not KCPD.

Collett said he hadn’t seen anything troubling.

However, KCPD confirmed that it did not disclose any of Cody’s records to Collett until two days later.

Collett chose to make an appointment with a human resources employee and review Cody’s file by phone instead of in person.

Collett asked the department to only list any disciplinary actions in Cody’s file.

The alleged demotion would not have been in his file because he retired before the drop to sergeant could occur.

“Why are you still digging into this?” Collett asked the reporter several times.

When told the paper was trying to help the city avoid another Skiles situation, he said Cody wouldn’t have a contract as Skiles did and could be fired at any time for any reason.

Collett also told colleagues on the council there were no concerns about Cody but did not detail what he had learned.

Here’s what sources told the Record and, in many cases, repeated after Cody’s raid on the newspaper office last week:

‘All respect that was there was lost’

Multiple sources recalled a conversation in which Cody was talking about his career and mentioned how much he loathed working in communications, or dispatch.

Cody said that if they hadn’t transferred him when they did, he would have found “the skinniest and prettiest girl down there and f*cked her” to force a move.

“I was quite flabbergasted and didn’t know how to respond to that,” a source said. “All respect that was there was lost.”

One source later transferred to another unit.

“As soon as I left his command, I was happy. It felt like a great weight had been lifted off of me,” he said.

‘The absolute worst commander’

A source called Cody “the absolute worst commander I ever experienced.”

“His ego would not allow him to listen to what anyone below his rank said … a common characteristic of toxic/ego-centric commanders.

Cody, he said, displayed intimidating and unprofessional behavior, made inappropriate comments, bullied others, and often was belittling to those under him.

‘You can’t do that. It’s just not cool.’

Cody spoke poorly of an officer who refused to kick in a door.

“Cody … pushed him out of the way and forced the door open,” an officer said.

“He stated to me that now that officer would cross the street in order to avoid Cody because that officer is a coward.”

“You can’t do that. You can’t say that. It’s just not cool.”

The officer said he liked Cody initially. After working with Cody, his opinion changed. Cody used uncouth language and was two-faced, “which is just ugly,” the officer said.

The officer also heard about the “skinniest and prettiest” comment.

“That’s just gross, man,” the officer said. “You shouldn’t think it, let alone say it out loud. To be a commander and say that to your subordinate … beyond that, I believed he would do it.”

Cody, he said, was “not a man of character” and had no moral compass.

‘He’s a morale killer’

When Cody was commander of traffic investigations, DUI arrests dropped, an officer said.

“We put up record numbers every year,” he said. “Our numbers dropped the first year with Cody. When he left us alone, we set a new record for Missouri.

“He’s a morale killer. When he was going to the property crimes unit, there were several people that put a transfer in before he got there. They just said, ‘I will not work for him,’ and they transferred out.”

‘He ran over a dead body’

Three sources told the Record that Cody once ran over a body at a scene.

“He was chasing another vehicle in an unrelated incident,” one of them recalled.

Asked for a timeframe for the crash so the Record could attempt to find a report, sources said the crash occurred over six years ago and they couldn’t remember.

The Record has attempted to interview Cody several times both when the allegations first surfaced and since he and other law enforcement officers raided the newspaper, the home of its co-owners, and city council member Ruth Herbel.

He twice declined to comment — on Friday and Sunday — when a reporter went to his home in Marion.

In April, he said he was a good poker player and could tell that the reporter didn’t have sources from the department’s human resources unit.

He said he had been angry since April 21, when Collett called to tell him that a reporter had interviewed several police officers.

“I feel better now,” he said April 23, reiterating that he could tell no one in HR had talked about him.

Multiple sources have said no one in HR would talk to any reporter because doing so would cost the person his or her job.

Cody repeatedly said he had nothing to hide.

On April 28, a reporter emailed the media unit for the Kansas City Police Department asking for confirmation of his employment dates, what unit he oversaw at the time of his retirement, and whether he had been disciplined after a vote by a public body.

Donna Drake wrote that Cody worked for the department from June 28, 1999, through April 22.

“Discipline/personnel matters are closed under Missouri sunshine law Chapter 610.021, sub section 13,” she wrote.

A reporter emailed Chief Stacey Graves on May 12 saying she understood the laws regarding records in Missouri.

“Do you think retired Capt. Cody would be a good police chief of a 2,000-person city?” the reporter asked Graves. “What were your personal experiences with Capt. Cody?”

An automatic reply said Graves was out of the office.

Graves never responded.

Last modified Aug. 24, 2023

 

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