Denham Springs police chief, captain violated laws in domestic violence case against councilman, report finds _lowres

Scott Jones; Steve Kistler

Fired Police Chief Paul “Scott” Jones and Capt. Steve Kistler violated numerous laws and departmental policies in handling a domestic violence case involving a city councilman, according to the formal findings of the investigative committee.

The committee’s report and related documents, released Thursday in response to a public records request, indicate the police chief misrepresented the close nature of his relationship with Councilman Chris Davis, whose wife called police Jan. 15 after an altercation between the couple resulted in her receiving a head injury.

Both Davises have since said the injury was an accident.

The committee also found that although Jones had told the mayor he was unaware of any prior claims of domestic violence made against Chris Davis, the department had responded to a separate incident at the Davis home 11 days earlier.

Denham Springs police issued Chris Davis a summons for the Jan. 15 incident, despite having a warrant for his arrest. The 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office later issued its own arrest warrant in the case, and Davis surrendered and was booked after receiving mental health treatment out of state.

District Attorney Scott Perrilloux has said an arrest was necessary to trigger the issuance of a protective order and bail restrictions.

After more than 200 hours of investigation, the mayor’s appointed committee concluded April 1 that Jones and Kistler had deliberately failed to perform their duties in Davis’ case and had committed acts sufficient to show they were unfit for civil service employment.

The City Council voted April 7 to uphold Mayor Gerard Landry’s recommendation to fire Jones immediately. Kistler also was fired the same afternoon. They have 15 days from the vote to appeal their terminations to the city’s civil service board.

Neither Jones nor Kistler could be reached for comment Thursday.

Robyn Davis said Thursday she called police on Jan. 15 because she and her husband had agreed that’s what she should do if she ever suspected he was having flashbacks from abuse he suffered as a child.

Robyn Davis said she insisted from the beginning that she did not want her husband arrested and that “he just needed to calm down and go somewhere else for a while.”

Chris Davis said he received no special treatment from the police chief or the department: “I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer.”

But the investigative committee was clearly concerned about the amount of contact between Davis and Jones on the day of the incident.

Cellphone records the city released Thursday show a flurry of calls among Jones, Kistler, Davis and Assistant District Attorney Blayne Honeycutt between 10:55 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. on Jan. 15.

City attorney Stephanie Hulett, one of three members of the committee, said the phone calls were discussed at length in the committee’s interviews with Jones, Kistler and Honeycutt. The committee did not interview either of the Davises.

Hulett declined to comment on the details of the interviews, citing the district attorney’s ongoing investigation.

Asked about the phone calls Thursday, Chris Davis said, “The only thing the chief said was that I needed to come in. Then Blayne (Honeycutt) said I was to come in on the following Monday (to receive a summons), and that’s what I did.”

But the committee report indicates the assistant district attorney had changed his mind about how Davis’ case should be handled.

The committee also found that Jones “failed to follow a direct order from Mayor Gerard Landry to ensure that the letter of the law was carried out in this case.”

Landry declined to comment on the case Thursday.

Text messages between the mayor and Jones, between Jones and Kistler, and between Kistler and Honeycutt were excluded from the roughly 200-page packet of documents the city provided in response to The Advocate’s request for the committee’s investigative record.

Other public records withheld due to the pending criminal case include recordings of two 911 calls from the Davis home on the night of Jan. 14 and the morning of Jan. 15; video surveillance of the Davises at the Police Department and of Kistler being briefed on the case; recordings of the committee’s interviews; and copies of the arrest warrants, summons and police report.

The city did provide heavily blacked-out police reports for 15 other domestic violence cases the department handled between October 2015, when departmental policies changed in response to changes in the law, and Feb. 20, three days after the investigation began.

The hidden portions of the reports — names, addresses and parts of the narrative for each incident — were not considered in the committee’s investigation, Hulett said. The committee “only reviewed these cases for facts and disposition of the charges” to determine whether Davis’ case was handled differently, she said.

The records revealed at least one other instance in which a domestic violence case was mishandled.

In December, someone suspected of violating a protective order was arrested by Denham Springs police and released from the Livingston Parish Detention Center without facing a legally required bail hearing.

In that case, the arresting officer — whose name was blacked out — had incorrectly filled out a form during booking that led to the early release. The officer was issued a letter of warning as discipline.

Hulett said Thursday that Jones’ and Kistler’s actions in Davis’ case warranted more severe punishment.

“It was clear there was an unintentional error in the paperwork in that officer’s case,” Hulett said. “In this case, the circumstances were very different.”

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.