Come Out From Behind Your Badge, Johnny Law!

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Here’s something I earnestly hope sets a precedent: Former professional football player Rich Stephens, who was abused by a badge-wearing bully at a traffic stop in Byrnes Mill, Missouri, has challenged his assailant to a refereed mixed martial arts match, with the proceeds going to charity.

Stephens was stopped by Officer Chris Hancock of the Byrnes Mill Police Department last July 31. For reasons that have never been made clear, Hancock called Officer Tim Walker  for backup. In an account he published by way of a full-age ad in a local newspaper, Stephens claims that Walker kicked his legs out from under him, handcuffed him, and took him to jail for no justifiable reason. The ex-Oakland Raiders player had to pay $160 to retrieve his pickup truck from the impound yard. No criminal charges against him have been reported.

In recent weeks Stephens has been displaying his disdain for Byrnes and his comrades by displaying a sign in his pickup truck reading: “What is Short, Fat, and Round All Over? A Byrnes Mill Cop!” Although Stephens admits that some Jefferson County residents think he’s “a little nutty,” many others who have experienced the ministrations of the town’s armed tax farmers eagerly express their approval of his message.It should come as a surprise to nobody that Byrnes Mill Chief of Police Ed Locke considers Stephens to be committing something perilously close to “harassment” by displaying his sign, and describes his challenge to Officer Walker as — let’s say it together, shall we? — a threat to “officer safety.”

“I’m just calling him out,” Stephens says of his challenge to Walker. “He’s a tough guy behind his badge and gun. He needs to drop it and see how tough he is.”

UPDATE —

“Byrnes Mill, MO is a speed trap disguised as a town,” comments an LRC reader. ” The small town police force lives off traffic tickets.    I was stopped by the same fat, ginger-headed cop while traveling through Byrnes Mill during Memorial Day weekend in 2009.  There is a law in MO that is supposed to limit what percentage of a town budget can be funded by traffic tickets.  It isn’t enforced.  My guess is that Byrnes Mill is over the limit.”

11:05 pm on October 19, 2010