“GUERNSEY, Wyo. — It was a few days before New Year’s Eve 2019, and Terri VanDam, the chief of Guernsey, Wyo.’s three-person Police Department, had run out of options.
For more than a year, Ms. VanDam and her sergeant, Misty Clevenger, had tried and failed to get to the bottom of the drug and alcohol problem in Guernsey, population 1,124. Methamphetamine use was rampant, and much of it was bought and sold right at the bars, they were told, but when anyone tried to investigate, they ran into a wall of silence that went right up to City Hall.
Not long after she had first started asking questions, she said, she had found a dead bird on her front porch, with a nail driven through it. Now, as chief, she had opened a full-scale investigation, and two townspeople warned that they had overheard the mayor talk about crippling the Police Department.
Not knowing where else to turn, Ms. VanDam reached out to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, asking for a team of state investigators to come into Guernsey and help turn her suspicions into a case.
“It is becoming a huge issue and is out of control,” she wrote.
Far from bringing in a posse, the emails would prove to be the new police chief’s undoing. Two weeks later, Ms. VanDam was fired, and then Ms. Clevenger. In federal lawsuits, the women contend they were ousted because they tried to confront an insular, small-town network of powerful ranchers, business owners and politicians that was unaccustomed to questions. . . . “
David Lindsay: I sent a letter to the NYT. Letters@nyt.com:
This was an excellent piece of reporting, by Ali Watkins, How a Police Chief in Wyoming’s Ranchlands Lost Her War on Drugs, and a fascinating piece, which begs for discussion and comment. Is this a travesty of justice, or an example of the drug war going where it shouldn’t, because Americans like to buy and sell drugs? It begs for more reporting, and a serious discussion through comments. How many folks are getting hurt by this drug trafficking in this small town? Would this town’s community be improved if illegal drugs were decriminalized?