Livingston residents demand answers as Chief of Police is placed on leave

LIVINGSTON, Calif. (KFSN) -- Pushing for transparency.

People in Livingston are demanding information from the city and council members after the Chief of Police John Markle was placed on administrative leave this week.

Protestors gathered outside of the Livingston council chambers Thursday demanding answers about why Chief Markle was placed on administrative leave earlier this week.

"First thing that came to my mind is why? Why? Who do that?" said Floripes Dzib.

Markle was sworn in as chief in June of this year.

The Interim City Manager Vanessa Portillo would not confirm or deny the chief was placed on leave, but multiple sources confirmed to Action News Markle was placed on leave Tuesday. That's the same day a post was made on the Livingston Police Department Facebook page announcing he would retire at the end of the year.

City residents are now wondering what happened.

"We don't feel confident that if we reach out to our community leaders, such as our mayor, our elected city council and interim city manager, that we will get an answer," said Leticia Vasquez.

The city has faced months of turmoil.

In July, the council terminated then-City Manager Jose Ramirez without a clear reason why.

Later that month, two Livingston police officers, Wapinder Kang and Harjinder Singh Heer were arrested, accused of making false statements in a criminal report.

RELATED: 2 Livingston police officers arrested for allegedly filing false report

Sergeant Kang's brother serves on the council.

There is also an ongoing investigation by the Merced County District Attorney and the California Secretary of State's Office into allegations of voter fraud in the City of Livingston.

That investigation triggered an effort by Livingston residents to start a recall effort to remove the Mayor Juan Aguilar, Mayor Pro-tem Raul Garcia, Councilmember Maria Soto and Councilmember Gagandeep Kang.

"We've elected officials to represent us, make decisions for us and if we're not sure as to why such decisions are being made and why these things are happening, then what is the role of them," Vasquez said.

But Mayor Pro-Tem Garcia said the council members are as transparent as they are allowed to be.

"We wish we could say everything, however, we can't," said Garcia. "It's not that we don't want to say anything, it's just that it'll put the city at a big liability to get sued."

Protestors hoped their demonstration would draw attention to everything that has happened with the city this year.

"We're hoping that the citizens see what's going on and more people will be involved in saying this is not right," said Gurpal Samra.

The Mayor Pro-Tem said he's glad people are allowed to have their voices heard, but thinks it could also detract from business getting done.

"It's kind of sad you know, because it's dividing the city. We're trying to move on with other projects in the city and we can't because people are concentrated on a recall that's not even true," Garcia said.

We asked Mayor Pro-Tem Garcia who has been appointed as the interim chief of police, he directed us to the city manager.

Action News spoke with the city manager's secretary who said she'd ask the city manager to respond, but so far, we have not heard back.
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