The mayor of Denham Springs placed his police chief and captain on paid administrative leave and promised an investigation apparently related to the department’s decision not to arrest a city councilman accused of hitting his wife.
Chief Scott Jones and Capt. Steve Kistler are under investigation to determine “whether department policies and procedures were properly followed in response to a domestic violence call,” Mayor Gerard Landry wrote in a brief statement Wednesday.
“I think it’s safe to assume that” the incident in question involves Councilman Chris Davis, said Councilwoman Lori Lamm-Williams. Councilman Robert Poole shared the sentiment.
Davis is accused of hitting his wife with the door of his truck Jan. 15, injuring her head.
Though she called police to their home, she later said the incident was an accident. Davis said his wife was crouched in such a way that he did not see her and that he did not hurt her intentionally.
Davis surrendered to authorities a month later but under somewhat peculiar circumstances. Denham Springs officers had issued an arrest warrant but did not execute it, said District Attorney Scott Perrilloux.
Because city police did not bring Davis in, the District Attorney’s Office issued its own warrant for Davis’ arrest, eventually leading to his surrender, Perrilloux explained.
“(The Denham Springs Police Department) should have executed the warrant,” he said. “That could be the basis for (the mayor’s) inquiry into what happened.”
Rather than arrest Davis, city police issued him a summons to appear in court, the district attorney said. However, there are substantial differences between a warrant and a summons. A warrant lets authorities book an accused offender into jail, where bail can be set. Davis’ bail was set at $1,500, which has been posted.
In domestic violence complaints, an arrest and booking — but not a summons — also triggers an automatic issuance of a temporary restraining order, Perrilloux said.
A restraining order has been filed in Davis’ case. His wife petitioned the court to dissolve the order, though District Judge Charlotte Foster refused.
The domestic violence restraining order is intended to give victims some legal protection against further harm and threats, the district attorney said.
Victims occasionally try to have the orders dissolved, though it is hard to tell if their requests are because they are protecting an abuser or born of a legitimate misunderstanding, Perrilloux said.
In the Davis case, the councilman had left the scene when police arrived. He has said he had gone to work. He also left the state for a time to receive mental health counseling. Despite his absence, city police had contact with Davis and an opportunity to arrest him, the district attorney said.
“(Officers) handed him a summons. … They could have executed the warrant at some point,” Perrilloux said.
Now city officials will have to determine if police behaved appropriately. Davis said Wednesday there was no quid pro quo or promise of any favors between him and anyone at the department.
He said he and Jones, the chief, attend the same church but described their relationship as professional.
“He’s a great man. He does a lot for the community,” Davis said of the chief.
City Council members said they are not sure how long the review may take or who specifically would be called to perform the internal investigation.
Poole speculated it likely would not be reviewed by other members of the Police Department.
He expects the city attorney and human resources staff may be involved, under the supervision of the mayor.
Unlike municipalities where police chiefs are elected, the Denham Springs position is by appointment, meaning the chief reports to the mayor, like a department head.
Landry did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. His three-sentence statement indicates the city will look for an interim chief to fill the position while Jones and Kistler are on leave.
Both men also were investigated last year by the city’s civil service board on allegations they covered up drug abuse by one of their narcotics officers. The case was thrown out when their lawyers revealed that tapes of interviews of both men were garbled and contained blank portions.
Jones also was fired as police chief in 1989 following allegations of favoritism to his wife, inadequate investigations and poor morale. He was later reinstated.
Neither the chief nor Kistler returned calls seeking comment on the new internal investigation.
Despite the recent scrutiny, council members expressed confidence in Jones.
“I have total confidence in the chief,” Poole said but added that he is eager to see what the nascent review uncovers.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.