Serve and Protect

Former Lawton Police Chief Ronnie Smith said he was forced to leave the job he loves.

Smith said City Manager Larry Mitchell told him either step down, or be terminated and lose his benefits.

Smith said he was given two reasons.

First, there were concerns over how his department presented cases to the District Attorney's office.

"I told the DA if there was any problem, please let me know," said Smith, "and we'd make sure everything got corrected."

The second reason dealt with the re-hiring of a former Lawton police officer.

"I did follow the rules on it. I did follow the normal procedure," said Smith, "but, they are alleging that I didn't, and I know that I did."

In response to what he called a wrongful termination, Smith's long time friend and Lawton business owner Mike Hodges (Hodges Wrecker & Auto Salvage) launched a petition campaign to try and get Smith back on the force.

Hodges said, "I hope the city council, with the signatures of these concerned citizens here in Lawton, I hope they will take this into consideration."

Hodges said he's collected well over 1000 signatures in just 5 days, and said there are almost 40 other Lawton locations with petitions.

He said he'll continue to collect signatures and present them to the city council at their next meeting.

"We own the Bellaire Apartments," said Dale Nomura who came into Hodges' to sign the petition,"[Smith]'s helped us out an awful lot there. People in town think it's a bad place, and he's helped change that."

Smith said after almost 4 decades with Lawton PD, he can only think of one blemish on his record.

"When I had five years on, I was in an accident once," said Smith,"it was my fault and I got suspended, but that was 32 years ago.

"Outside of that," Smith continued, "I've had nothing but above standard evaluations. Outstanding evaluations, even as Chief. I've had no sick leave use in 37 and a half years."

Because of that level of commitment, Smith and his growing network of supporters, feel he deserves to be back with the department.

"I haven't done anything wrong," said Smith, "if I did, I would just leave quietly."

"We don't do Lawtonians like this," said Hodges, "Somebody that's given 37 and a half years on the police force and protected us everyday and night, we don't do that."

Reporter's Notes by Ryan Robertson:
This isn't the first time Lawton City Manager Larry Mitchell has been involved in a legal dispute involving the termination of police officers.

Before he came to Lawton, Mitchell was the City Manager in Owassa.

Mitchell terminated two officers there in 2000, but they were eventually re-instated.

Mitchell resigned after the City of Owassa bought out his contract.

KFDX tried to reach Mitchell for comment on this story, but his office said he can't comment on personnel matters.

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