Referees arrested doing their job’
The president of the Louisiana High School Officials Association said Monday that a Covington police officer exceeded his authority when he arrested two game officials at the St. Paul-Mandeville football game Friday night.
Bryan Greenwood released a written statement expressing “extreme disappointment’’ at the arrest of James Radcliffe, the referee, and head linesman Chris Gambino, who he said were following proper protocol during a disagreement over game management.
“My hope is that the Covington Police Department recognizes that this police officer exceeded his authority and responsibility and intervened in a matter beyond his authority,’’ Greenwood said.
Radcliffe and Gambino were arrested during the third quarter of the game and booked on a count of “public intimidation of an officer.’’
They bonded out Saturday morning after spending the night in the St. Tammany Parish Jail.
Interim Covington Police Chief Jack West would not identify the arresting officer, but transfer documents from the Police Department indicate it was Stephen Short.
West said the arrest report on the incident will not be ready for two or three weeks because there were so many witnesses and so many people have come forward to support the police officer’s position.
Craig Ketelson, St. Paul’s athletic director, said the sideline official, Gambino, had asked some Mandeville fans to back up and sought the help of the Covington officer working security for the game. There was some disagreement, Ketelson said, and Gambino summoned the referee, Radcliffe.
Both officials eventually were taken away as the game was interrupted for 27 minutes.
West said Friday that the referee was asking for a group of people on the sidelines to be moved, but the police officer said if someone needed to move, then he would handle the situation.
West said the referee became confrontational — an account he said was backed up by witnesses.
According to Greenwood, Radcliffe wanted to find the principal to resolve the matter, and at that point the police officer “decided to show his assumed authority and arrest the game officials.’’
The game officials were following proper protocol, Greenwood said Monday.
National Federation of State High School Associations and Louisiana High School Athletic Association contest rules say game officials take jurisdiction of the contest 30 minutes before game time until the game ends, he said.
Game officials are responsible for the safety of players, coaches and game officials and have the authority to clear an entire stadium if they believe there is a safety issue, Greenwood said.
The fact the referees asked for police assistance did not transfer their authority to the police, Greenwood said.
“They (the game officials) were arrested for performing their duties and doing their job,’’ he said. “They acted in a manner to protect the safety of everyone involved and in the spirit of competition.’’
He described the two as veteran game officials, saying Radcliffe, 54, has been officiating at high school games since he was 18 and is secretary of the Louisiana High School Officials Association. He said Gambino, 55, has worked high school football games for 28 years and is on staff with the Gulf South Conference Officials Association and has worked numerous playoff assignments and a state championship game.
“Both officials have the respect of coaches, athletic directors and principals,’’ Greenwood said. “Both take seriously the integrity of the game and safety of student athletes.’’