Fired Police Chief White drops appeal

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Dewayne White is seen in this February, 2013 photo. Show caption
Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Dewayne White is seen in this February, 2013 photo.

Fired Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White abruptly dropped his civil service appeal Thursday, abandoning hopes of being reinstated chief and claiming he would not have received a fair hearing.

The move, which took many city-parish officials by surprise, averted a three-day hearing scheduled for next month before the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board. It came two months after Mayor-President Kip Holden terminated White for insubordination and disregarding several department policies.

“I dismissed my appeal today because, as much as I wish to continue serving the people of this community, I will not and do not ever want to work for this administration,” White said in a prepared statement

Several city-parish officials expressed relief at the closing of what they called an unpleasant chapter in local government history.

“I think this is the best thing for everybody,” said William Daniel, Holden’s chief administrative officer. “There’s a lot of really great things happening in the city, and this has been a distraction.”

White’s attorney, Jill Craft, said White had not ruled out filing a federal lawsuit based on the irregular circumstances of his firing.

“I would anticipate additional litigation down the road as it relates to other things,” she said.

Holden’s decision to fire White followed months of tension between the chief and the police union, which celebrated his ouster.

“I became chief with the very clear mission of ending corruption, cronyism, crime, and making Baton Rouge a better and safer city,” White said in the statement. “It is clear to me that in my attempts to accomplish these goals, I have ruffled feathers and stepped on toes.”

Chris Stewart, the union president, called White’s decision to abandon his appeal “a great day for Baton Rouge, for the citizens, for the Police Department, for the police union, for the administration.” He called White’s tenure the “worst era in BRPD history.”

“We’re happy that these uncertain times are behind us now and we can move forward with positive law enforcement and positive interaction with the public that we serve,” Stewart said. “There’s a bad apple in every bunch, and we do our best to find them and get them out and move on.”

Craft said at the time of White’s dismissal that she looked forward to “vindicating my client’s name and letting the public know the truth about what happened and what’s happening in the Police Department.” White continued to pursue his appeal even after his former colleagues began a criminal investigation into his unreturned city-parish cellphone, a probe that was closed without charges.

On Thursday, Craft said White’s case had gotten out of hand, alluding to the criminal investigation and a bitter court battle that followed over whether city-parish officials violated a court order by releasing a related police report.

“It’s to the point it’s ludicrous,” she said.

The investigator who prepared the police report, Detective Cleveland “Mack” Thomas, concluded White had refused to return the cellphone to conceal an extramarital affair.

White and his attorney said they will continue to oppose release of the contents of a cellphone police seized from a Zachary woman while searching for White’s city-parish cellphone.

Murphy J. Foster III, an attorney for Holden, said White dropped his appeal to avoid the inevitable embarrassment he would face when the facts about his tenure emerged at his civil service hearing.

“I think that the chief and his attorney figured out that the evidence was overwhelming against him and that this option made the most sense,” Foster said.

Craft noted in her motion to dismiss that the chairman of the civil service board, Sgt. Bryan Taylor, has applied to take the police chief’s civil service exam scheduled for next month, creating a conflict of interest for Taylor to decide whether White should be reinstated.

Craft noted the board was in the process of approving applications for White’s successor.

“Appellant is entitled to a fair and unbiased hearing fully comporting with his Constitutional rights to his civil service employment,” Craft said in the motion to dismiss. “Given the current tenor of the situation, such consideration will not be forthcoming.”

Taylor declined comment Thursday.

White’s decision drew mixed reaction from Metro Council members.

Councilman Joel BoƩ said he wishes White were still chief but is relieved he dropped the appeal so the city-parish can move past the recent turmoil.

“It was keeping it on the front burner and it was not allowing anything to heal,” he said.

Councilwoman Tara Wicker said White’s decision seemed to reflect his frustration “with the overall system that we have in place, and that’s pretty sad.”

“It’s very telling and it’s also really unfortunate that in this day and time, he was of the opinion that he won’t be able to be treated fairly,” she added, “and that raises a lot of suspicion and concern.”

Councilman Chandler Loupe, said he had not expected White to return to work for Holden regardless of the outcome of an appeal.

“I’m not sure it’s going to be the end to the litigation,” Loupe said. “I think it’s just an end to the appeal.”

Councilman John Delgado said White had taken a “reasonable step,” having seen “the writing on the wall.”

“Certainly this has been a disruption to city government, and I think everybody’s ready to move forward,” Delgado said. “This wasn’t going to lead anywhere, and they made the right decision.”