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The police board fired Poletis on April 20, 1995, finding his testimony on the residency matter "not credible." Poletis appealed the decision and also sued the manager of the apartment building. Both cases were dismissed.
Who would issue his next police badge? The blots on his résumé were in danger of overshadowing the commendations that Poletis had earned in his 25-year career.
Poletis accepted an offer from Lake Lotawana three days after the Kansas City police board hearing concluded.
Lake Lotawana needed a police chief to manage a force of three full-time officers and two reserve officers. The board of aldermen voted to hire Poletis on the recommendation of the city's new mayor, Stephen Nixon (now a Jackson County judge). Asked later about the decision to hire Poletis, Nixon said he liked how the interview went. He did not recall checking any references.
As the new chief, one of Poletis' first tasks was to resolve a dispute between neighbors. He dealt with the matter by having one of them committed to a mental ward.
A resident named George Hedges wrote a letter to Mayor Nixon a few weeks after Poletis became chief. "We need to talk at length as soon as possible," Hedges wrote. "My schedule is flexible. It would be prudent if the police chief was present in the interest of time."
Hedges' problems began on Memorial Day weekend, 1994, when he complained to his neighbor, Jim Snodgrass, about the noise from Snodgrass' stereo and bug zapper. Not satisfied with Snodgrass' response, Hedges cranked up the volume on his television.
Residential lots in Lake Lotawana are only 50 feet wide, which puts a premium on neighborliness. Hedges and Snodgrass were unable or unwilling to coexist in peace. A police sergeant took a statement from someone who thought he saw Snodgrass go onto Hedges' property and use a camera flash in his window. Snodgrass complained that Hedges made threats through a lattice.
Poletis weighed the evidence and decided that Hedges required a 96-hour stay at Western Missouri Mental Health Center.
A part-time librarian in his early 50s, Hedges was not the picture of stability. He took medication for depression and panic disorder. Around Christmastime of the same year, he wrote a letter to the Lotawana Express stating that his "next stop" was a funeral home. He informed Nixon's predecessor that he carried a handgun. "At this point, I can safely predict the real possibility of a tragedy," he wrote in a letter to that mayor.
His strife with Snodgrass was not imaginary, however. Curtis Dowdell, a former Lake Lotawana police sergeant, said later that he thought Hedges and Snodgrass shared equal blame. Dowdell had told Poletis that he considered Snodgrass to be a "redneck."
With fault apparent on both sides, the police judged Hedges to be the danger. The mental-health professional who signed the order for the detention relied on statements by Snodgrass, Poletis, Dowdell and another officer.
Hedges spent a long weekend at Western Missouri. Upon his release, he found an attorney. Arthur Benson II argued in a federal lawsuit that Poletis had never made a full investigation and instead determined that it was the man who happened to be gay — Hedges — who required the police escort to a mental facility. Benson argued that "the untruths of Poletis" led to the commitment.
Poletis gave Benson opportunities to question his truthfulness. In a deposition that was taken on November 21, 1997, Poletis said he quit the Prairie Village police force because he had been passed over for a promotion. LeManske, who retired in 1991, corrected the record. "He was terminated," LeManske said in his deposition.