With the letter of termination given to Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White nearly 2 weeks ago, which turned out to only be ‘paid leave’ per the mayor, several questions regarding the position of Chief of Police are left unanswered. Questions such as “Is the position considered Civil Service?” and “Should the people vote on a new chief rather than having the mayor appoint him?”.
A question that has not been asked is whether or not Kip Holden is qualified to select the next chief. If Chief White is guilty of all of Holden’s accusations and has barely been on the job for 2 years, what does that say about Holden’s ability to select the right man for the job?
In 2011 when White was hired, Holden stated…
“I am very pleased to announce that Major Dewayne White will serve as our next police chief with a commitment to make Baton Rouge safer for all of us. This process has been conducted in a fair, objective and thorough manner which resulted in Major White emerging as the best choice to lead our Baton Rouge Police Department forward.”
Holden’s bio lists him as being the PIO for the BRPD at one time. What other qualifications he has a law enforcement officer is unknown. This makes it difficult to decide whether or not he is truly qualified to not only select the right candidate but to have the ability to decide if his choice for the position is making decisions that best fit the needs of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
It didn’t take much searching to find that one of White’s first moves as chief was to pull high ranking officials out of their office jobs at headquarters and put them on the street. Jill Craft, White’s attorney, stated that White tried to transfer Police Union President Chris Stewart from a position of “professional standards” to “community policing”—basically moving him from a job with no duties “to one with work.” This may have been the start of the friction between White and the Police Union, who openly support his firing.
What will also be interesting to see is who is correct regarding the proper classification of the chief’s position. If the mayor is wrong and does not actually know the proper classification of a position he is appointing then this will further injure his credibility on this whole incident.
The Advocate spoke with Robert S. Lawrence, deputy state examiner of the Louisiana Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service, last week who stated “The law is very clear. Chief White is very definitely in the classified service of the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service System as the police chief of the city of Baton Rouge”.
Lawrence cited Revised Statute 33:2481 which states…
The classified service shall comprise every position, except those included in the unclassified service, to which the right of employee selection, appointment, supervision, and discharge is vested in the municipal government or with an officer or employee thereof, and which has as its primary duty and responsibility one of the following:
Further down under ‘Police’, the statute reads…
The chief and assistant chiefs; the intradepartmental division, bureau, squad, platoon, and company officers of the police department.
In the same article by The Advocate, Murphy Foster III, attorney for the Mayor of Baton Rouge, states that the Chief’s position is one that is served at the pleasure of the mayor. “The responsibility of the mayor-president is to refer first to the Plan of Government, and our position is that he is not a classified employee”, said Foster.
Foster states that Lawrence had “obviously” failed to read the city-parish Plan of Government.
Since the state law and the local ordinance obviously contradict one another, the interpretation of each and whether or not a local ordinance can supersede a state law will decide where this case goes from here.
If it is decided that Chief White is classified as a civil service employee, he is afforded an appeal to the civil service board to keep his job but must file within 15 days of his dismissal.