PORT ALLEN — A police officer will be assigned desk duty and no longer allowed to patrol city streets until two separate investigations into his alleged misconduct are completed, Police Chief Fred Smith assured the public Wednesday.
The chief’s decision came after a heated exchange during a City Council meeting where members of the public called for Smith to fire the officer.
Before the back-and-forth, Mayor Pro-Tem Ralph Bergeron advised members of the audience not to say the officer’s name publicly. Authorities also have not made the officer’s name public.
Port Allen resident Nikisha Joseph said she didn’t want to paint all police officers as bad, but instead pointed out that the officer in question has a long track record of brutalizing city residents.
“My concern is that there have been several complaints and the officer is still allowed to ride around in the taxpayers’ car, wear a badge and carry a gun.” Joseph said. “If nothing’s done about it, he will continue.”
Joseph said the police chief assured her once before that the officer would be placed on desk duty, but the officer was back patrolling the streets the next day.
“When you allow things like this to continue to happen, I guess you’re requesting a lawsuit,” Joseph told the council. “I don’t want to know that my tax dollars aren’t going to education but instead it’s going into someone’s pockets because the officer can’t keep his hands off someone.”
Smith defended his office by saying that he has fired officers before and wouldn’t hesitate to fire this particular officer if an investigation reveals any misconduct.
The officer in question, Smith said, has been investigated by the Louisiana State Police as many as four times and has been cleared of wrongdoing each time.
“I’ve worked in Port Allen for 13 years and I never abused anyone,” Smith said. “I won’t allow one of my officers to abuse people. That’s not who I am.”
The City Council went into executive session for about 20 minutes after Smith’s remarks to discuss a lawsuit filed against the officer.
When the council returned, City Attorney Victor Woods recommended the officer be placed on desk duty until State Police could investigate more recent complaints against the officer.
Woods further said he would ask the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to conduct a separate investigation into the brutality claims.
Other matters taken up by the council included:
VACATION PAY: Former Police Chief Harry Brown asked the council to pay him for 480 hours of unused vacation pay accrued during eight years in office between 2000 and 2008.
Brown’s request came about a month after the City Council voted 3-2 not to pay former Mayor Derek Lewis about $19,000 he says the city owes him in unused vacation pay.
NEW FINANCIAL OFFICER: Wednesday marked the first regular City Council meeting since the hiring of Chief Financial Officer Audrey A. McCain.
The city has been without an official CFO since Jan. 1, when Claire Sarradet retired after 33 years of service.