The police chief of Marion, Kansas, was suspended on Thursday, more than a month after he ordered raids on the office of a local newspaper and the home of its publisher in an act rarely seen in American journalism, one that was widely condemned by news organizations as a violation of the First Amendment.
Mayor David Mayfield suspended the chief, Gideon Cody, indefinitely, according to Brogan Jones, the city’s administrator. Mr. Jones did not a provide a reason for the chief’s suspension, and it was not immediately clear whether the chief was suspended with pay.
City leaders have faced questions about Chief Cody’s hiring in the aftermath of the raids and after The Kansas City Star reported that the chief had left his previous job at the Kansas City Police Department following accusations that he had made sexist and insulting comments.
The mayor and the chief could not be reached for comment on Saturday. An interim chief had not been named, Mr. Jones said.
Chief Cody, who was named as Marion’s police chief in the spring, was widely criticized for pursuing and executing a search warrant in August on The Marion County Record, a family-owned newspaper with a circulation of about 4,000 that reports on the city of roughly 2,000 residents about 50 miles north of Wichita.
On Aug. 11, Marion police officers and two sheriff’s deputies raided the newspaper’s office as well as the home of its publisher, Eric Meyer, and seized computers and phones. The search was part of what the authorities said was an investigation into how a document containing information about a local restaurant owner had been obtained by the newspaper.
The newspaper’s acquisition of the document may have constituted identity theft and computer crimes, the authorities said.
Mr. Meyer’s 98-year-old mother and the co-owner of the paper, Joan Meyer, died a day after the searches. Her son said her death was related in part to distress caused by the raid on their home.
The police also searched the home of a councilwoman, Ruth Herbel, who had also received the document. Ms. Herbel’s lawyer said the councilwoman had independently received the same information and that she had broken no laws.
Days before the raid, The Marion County Record had questioned Chief Cody about the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Kansas City Police Department, though the paper’s reporting did not at the time result in a news article.
More than 30 news organizations and press freedom advocates, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, signed a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemning the raid.
A judge had signed the search warrant about an hour before the raids, an action the chief later defended in an email, arguing that journalists are subject to search if they are suspected of committing a crime.
“I believe when the rest of the story is available to the public, the judicial system that is being questioned will be vindicated,” the chief said at the time.
Marion County’s top prosecutor, Joel Ensey, ordered law enforcement officials to return the seized devices, citing insufficient evidence to justify the searches.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, a state agency, took over the investigation from the Marion Police Department.
Mr. Meyer, 69, said the paper had done nothing wrong, adding that The Record never published an article involving the government record, which he said had been obtained from a confidential source. One of the paper’s reporters, he added, had verified its authenticity using the state’s records, which are available online.
The City Council is scheduled to meet on Monday, but it was unclear from its agenda whether Chief Cody’s suspension would be discussed.