4 apply so far for BR police chief exam

With a deadline of Tuesday looming, only four people have applied to take the civil service exam to become Baton Rouge’s next police chief.

A pool of that size would be far smaller than the groups of applicants who have taken the test in previous police chief searches. But Sgt. Bryan Taylor, chairman of the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, said he expects a last-minute surge in applications before the close of business Tuesday.

“I would suspect that number would double or even triple,” he said.

Some applicants could be waiting until the final hour to file their paperwork to avoid the “fanfare” and publicity seen in previous selection processes, Taylor said.

But Taylor also acknowledged that Police Chief Dewayne White’s highly publicized firing could have an unpredictable impact on the number of people applying.

Even as the hiring process moves forward, the ousted chief has appealed his termination to the civil service board and has a hearing next month.

“Obviously, it doesn’t seem ideal at this point with everything looming,” Taylor said. “It’s a bit different atmosphere.”

Taylor said he has not heard any discussion of extending the application deadline, as the board did about two years ago amid an initial dearth of applicants vying to succeed former Police Chief Jeff LeDuff.

About a dozen people have picked up applications but have not yet submitted them, said Penny Stobaugh, the board’s secretary.

The board, which began advertising the opening last month, plans to approve applications for the chief’s exam at its April 18 meeting. The two-part test will be given May 22 at the River Center downtown.

Provisional Chief Carl Dabadie said he was the first to submit his application. Dabadie, who served as White’s chief of staff, took the exam in 2011 and made a list of the top 11 candidates.

Fifty-two people, including several from out of state, applied in 2011, and 32 ultimately took the exam. The test drew 48 applicants in 2004.

“I would like to think there’s going to be a lot more than just four people,” Dabadie said Friday. “I think it’s a different situation than last time, and maybe some people think that I have it sewed up. But I didn’t get the memo if that’s true.”

All four who have applied so far are veteran law enforcement officers. Aside from Dabadie, the board received applications from Baton Rouge police Capt. James G. Drickamer; Christopher P. Hagan Sr., an officer with the Gonzales Police Department; and Bill D. Press, the former police chief of Fairhope, Ala.

Press, who served nearly 36 years and retired as a captain from the Miami-Dade Police Department, said he resigned as chief in Fairhope in September amid frequent clashes with the mayor.

“Unfortunately, we did not see eye to eye on a number of issues,” Press said in a telephone interview. He said he made sweeping changes in the department during his more than three-year tenure, implementing policies and procedures that “excluded potential friends of politically elected officials and followed a close scrutiny of hiring and promoting the very best we could possibly get for the city.”

Press said he has read about the recent turmoil within the Baton Rouge Police Department. “I won’t comment other than to say that when I get there, if provided that opportunity, I’ll do the very best that I can to improve relations not only internally but externally within the department,” he said.

Press holds a doctorate in philosophy and a master’s degree in public administration, according to information provided by the civil service board.

Dabadie, 48, is a graduate of Baker High School and a 28-year-veteran of the Police Department. He has served in many roles as he ascended the ranks, including motorcycle officer, academy staff instructor and academy director. His father was also a police officer and died in the line of duty in a 1984 motorcycle accident.

Dabadie has said he would seek to build community trust as chief.

Drickamer, 63, has been with the force for nearly 30 years. He previously applied for the chief’s test in 2000, 2004 and 2011.

He holds a master’s of divinity along with a Bachelor of Arts, according to the civil service board. Reached at his home late Friday, Drickamer said he had not been authorized by the department to discuss his application.

Hagan, 43, served more than 16 years in the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he had been a senior detective, according to the civil service board. He holds an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Hagan could not be reached for comment Friday and did not return a message left with Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson.

Once the chief’s exam is given, the Office of State Examiner will return the scores to the civil service board, which will certify a list of eligible candidates and forward it to East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden.

In 2011, Holden assembled a 23-member advisory committee that interviewed candidates and recommended a top five.

It is not clear whether Holden plans to form another advisory committee to help choose White’s successor. Holden did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Like Taylor, Metro Councilman John Delgado said he expects the number of applicants for the police chief’s position to increase significantly before Tuesday’s deadline.

“You may invite interest in your application if you send it in too far in advance,” Delgado said. “Obviously, Dabadie has nothing to lose and everybody expected him to apply.”