BAKER — Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps clashed with a political opponent who at Tuesday’s City Council meeting criticized the chief over spending in the police department. And after the meeting, the two continued to trade barbs.
William “Bill” Johnson, a retired Zachary police officer who lost to Knaps in the 2008 Baker police chief election, on Tuesday addressed the city council about the recent purchase of 18 body cameras to be worn by Baker police officers. Johnson asked how the cameras were paid for and expressed concern about what he called excess spending by the city.
“We need to tighten our belts,” he said.
The council recently approved $80,000 for two new SUVs for the police department and Knaps has been asking for more officers, Johnson said.
“When I see four policemen parked at the Lagniappe (restaurant on Plank Road in Baker) at lunchtime, I don’t think we need more policemen,” Johnson said.
Knaps countered that Johnson has not served as a police officer for 20 years and doesn’t know anything about modern policing.
“I’m talking about running a police department here, which I have done. You’re out of line, out of touch,” Knaps said to Johnson. “The good news is that we are doing it right (in Baker). You don’t know where the money comes from. You don’t know anything about the budget. I suggest before you come up here and attack one of the best (police departments) in the state, you get your facts straight.”
Interviewed after the meeting, Knaps clarified that the body cameras cost $16,000, most of which came from a federal grant. The remaining cost was covered by city funds dedicated to police equipment. Knaps was not able to confirm how much the city paid for the cameras, but he said he expects more funds to become available from the federal government to cover the city’s portion.
While walking to the parking lot, Johnson and Knaps continued to snap at each another, Knaps citing Johnson’s felony record and Johnson accusing Knaps of having unnamed federal charges against him.
Knaps denied the accusation and called Johnson a liar.
Johnson, who had been a finalist for a seat on the Capital Area Transit System board in 2013, withdrew his name after it came to light that he pleaded guilty in 2009 to felony theft charges stemming from a scheme involving a Drug Awareness Resistance Education program in Zachary.