Terminated police officer speaks against force's shortcomings

Paul Connor was fired from the Stratford Police Department a few days ago, and now he is speaking out against the lack of community protection.

Connor was in his probationary period with the force, as he accepted the badge in September. But once he began working with the department, he saw some things he said he was not pleased with.

"Any citizen can go down to the police department at any time and see that those doors are locked up 90 percent of the time," he said. "Or when they need somebody, they're going to leave their house because they're on call. There is not 24-hour protection here in Stratford."

Connor claimed the force is not aggressive in making drug busts- something he said he did several times. And enforcing transportation code, Connor said, is another job not on top of the force's to-do list.

"My job is to go out and protect you," Connor said. "I can be nameless, I can be faceless, stand up to scrutiny and, I mean, that's what I'm doing now. I feel that I'm standing up for what's right or what's best for the people."

But Chief of Police Joe Powell said he feels Connor is simply acting out of anger because he was cut from the department. Powell let him go on the grounds that he "was not a good fit."

"You know, I've done this for 20 years and it's simply a matter of, you know, some are cut out and some aren't," he said. "And the ones that aren't- some will leave nicely and some get angry and try to flare back. And that's what's happening. I mean, that's all this really amounts to."

Powell is currently in the running for Sherman County Sheriff, and Connor said he believes Powell's campaign has become the top priority as opposed to protecting the streets of Stratford. Powell said otherwise.

"He was terminated and I understand he's frustrated. His twist on this by calling you guys is simply to attempt to knock me out of the election. And it's just dirty politics and that's something I've never been involved with a don't want to be involved with."

Connor added Powell would sometimes tell him not pull over vehicles, and that, Connor said, didn't sit right. He said he feels if a person is breaking the law, they should receive a citation. According to Powell, there were days he wanted Connor to simply patrol the streets- not hand out citations.

Conner insisted he doesn't care about Powell's campaign- he said he is not setting out to destroy it. He simply wants the community to take notice of the way the police department is- and is not- handling the town.

"They need officers that are going to be diligent in finding narcotics, weapons, sex offenders," he said, "because they're walking around in this community and it's not as safe as people believe."

Connor said he hopes this situation does not keep him from moving forward in his career with law enforcement. He has already begun to look into other jobs, including the Cactus Police Department.

"If I have to be the catalyst to a better community, then I will surely take that punch because, I mean, we all have to push for a better community together."