West ‘ready for court’ in officials’ case
The Covington Police Department expressed new support Tuesday for the actions of one of its officers in a Friday night incident that led to the arrest of two football officials during a high school game.
“We have video substantiating the officer and we have witnesses substantiating the officer,” said Jack West, Covington’s interim police chief.
“They were arrested on a criminal charge, and we hope to go to trial. We have video and witnesses that we think can get a conviction without a problem.”
The statement was the strongest made by the department since Friday night, when James Radcliffe and Chris Gambino were arrested in alleged “public intimidation of an officer.”
The arrests happened during the third quarter of the game between St. Paul’s and Mandeville.
The incident began when Gambino, the head linesman, requested help from a police officer to maintain crowd control on the visitors’ sideline.
After they got into a dispute, Gambino summoned Radcliffe, the referee.
“One of the officials got confrontational with our officer and told the officer he was going to eject him from the game,” West said. “He inferred that he would do it physically.
“I wouldn’t be surprised that when we show the defense attorney the video we have, it gets a plea and not actually go to court.
“We have our stuff in a row with witnesses. I don’t want to say it’s as high as 25, but it’s something like that.
“They all substantiate the police officer’s statement.”
West wouldn’t give the name of the officer who made the arrests, but documents show it was Stephen Short.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Sports Officials and the Greater New Orleans Football Officials Association released statements supporting the game officials.
“This officiating crew did exactly what it was expected to do in addressing the sideline area,” NASO said.
“The officials acted appropriately when they felt a problem was brewing as a result of unknown individuals being in the sideline area near the goal line. They sought out assistance from game security in addressing the matter before it became a bigger problem.
“They did not get that assistance. ... We cannot understand why this request to the officer was not honored.”
The president of the Louisiana High School Officials Association said Mondaythe police officer exceeded his authority when he arrested the men.
“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,’’ said Brian Greenwood, president of the association.
Covington Mayor Mike Cooper said he has reached out to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, St. Paul’s and the officials association and hopes to meet with members of all three Wednesday.
Timothy Lentz, who was confirmed by the City Council as Covington’s next police chief Tuesday night and will take over his duties Wednesday, said he doesn’t have enough information yet to comment.
“I am going to suspend judgment until I review all of the facts,” Lentz said. “I haven’t seen one piece of paper or one piece of evidence yet.”
Kevin Boitmann, assignment secretary for the Greater New Orleans Football Officials Association, said Radcliffe and Gambino are both eligible to officiate games this weekend.
“They are not under any type of suspension or any other type of discipline,” Boitmann said.
The arresting officer is still working as well.
“We started an internal investigation on it,” West said. “But when all of your witnesses back up the police officer, what can we do? … They can put all the statements out they want. We are ready for court.”