UPDATE: Petition drive launched to reinstate ex-chief

Lawton_ A simple signature. A loud statement for justice.

That is the message Mike Hodges says he hopes to send to City Hall with his petition for Ronnie Smith's reinstatement as Lawton's Police Chief.

"I feel what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong and Ronnie Smith was done wrong," Hodges said.

Hodges runs a wrecker service in Lawton and is a long-time friend of Smith's. He started this petition yesterday after a conversation he had with Smith, in which Smith said he wanted his job back.

Smith says when he heard about the petition he was humbled.

"To know that there is so many people out there that are supporting me to go back to work and I do want to go back to work.  I never wanted to leave. Like I said in my original letter, I was forced to resign and I did that and I really thank all the people and the businessmen that are circulating this petition," Smith said.

Smith resigned Tuesday, ending a stay of more than 37 years on the force.  He had been the police chief since 2005.  Smith said he had been placed on administrative leave the previous week, pending a predetermination hearing.  At that meeting, Smith said he was told the city had problems with his handling of a personnel matter involving the re-hiring of an officer, as well as his lack of cooperation with the district attorney's office. Smith said he was given the option of being dismissed, or resigning, so he resigned.

Hodges says he and everyone else who signs the petition believe after all Smith's time on the force, he deserves the chance to leave on his own terms.

"Let him go back to work. When he gets ready to retire and had enough of the police department, he'll get to ring that bell.  I guess is what they get to do when they retire. 37 1/2 years and you don't get to retire, don't get to ring that bell..that's not the Lawton way," Hodges said.

Last week, City Manager Larry Mitchell said Smith stepped down because Smith felt it was in his own best interest to do so.  He denied there had been any internal investigation of Smith.

7NEWS asked Mitchell Thursday if enough people signed this petition, would his office consider reinstating Smith.  Mitchell said he is not surprised by the petition, because Smith has a lot of supporters, but said that does not change the facts of the case.  Mitchell said he came to his decision based on reviewing the evidence at the pre-determination hearing.   When asked why he used the term "case" since his initial statement was that Smith resigned because it was in his best interests, Mitchell said he could not comment any further. He did say that it would be up to the city council on what they wanted to do about the petition.

Hodges says there are already five other business owners that are circulating the petition. They are Honest Harry's, Frog's Pawn, Lawton Recycling, Yong's Corner, and Ken's Pharmacy. You can also call Hodges at 357-6138 if you'd like to sign it.

He says his goal is to get about 5,000 signatureS. He plans on taking his petition to the City Council meeting on March 26th.