Top cop defers filling posts

After spending a year laying the groundwork to add three deputy police chief slots to the Baton Rouge Police Department, Chief Dewayne White decided against pursuing funding for the positions in the 2013 city-parish budget.

The annual police budget is appropriated from the $780 million city-parish budget, which is proposed by Mayor-President Kip Holden and approved by the Metro Council.

The Police Department initially requested $267,650 to fund the three new deputy chief positions, but later withdrew the request, according to budget documents.

“As an administrator, I wanted to wait for the right time and the right time is not now,” White said. “What I’m looking for is putting more boots on the ground and that to me is a priority over three executive positions.”

In September 2011, White began the process by asking the Metro Council to approve the three positions, which would be one of the few jobs in the department — including his own — not based on seniority.

Last year, the Baton Rouge Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board approved the creation of the positions.

Initially, White said he hoped to fund the positions in 2012 by eliminating seven captain positions. But he abandoned that option after receiving pressure from the police union to keep the positions intact so officers have more opportunity for promotions.

White also attempted to eliminate two classifications of major in the department because, he said, their duties could be carried out by the deputy chiefs once they are hired, but White withdrew the request after being advised by Holden’s administration that the move “would be premature.”

White has said he wants the three positions to make the department more accountable, professional and trustworthy.

“They’ll bring a definitive line of a chain of command,” White said. “They’ll increase accountability by having budgetary control and program authority over uniform patrol, operational services and detective services.”

He said he still values the positions but will wait to pursue funding after the department fills its officer vacancies.

The 2013 budget will provide for a 30-officer police academy beginning in late February, which will fill the vacancies. The academy is made possible by a 7 percent increase in the Police Department’s proposed budget over this year.

But White told the Metro Council at a budget hearing last week that he expects 24 additional officers to retire next year, so he’ll have to ask for another midyear academy to restore the ranks.

White said he could request to be included in a midyear budget supplement to fund the deputy chief positions next year, once he’s fully staffed.

“Until that’s done, it would be ill-advised to move forward with filling the positions,” he said.

The Metro Council will approve the city-parish budget in December.

The Police Department was allocated $84.3 million in Holden’s proposed 2013 budget, compared with last year’s budget of $78.6 million.