BR police union head fires back at former Police Chief White

Corporal: Dismissed police chief’s allegations ‘baseless’

The president of the local police union fired back Tuesday at ousted Police Chief Dewayne White, a day after White made accusations that no one in the Baton Rouge Police Department knew that the union president was actually working or even showing up to work.

Cpl. Chris Stewart, president of Baton Rouge Union of Police Local 237, said in a letter released by union attorney Charlie Dirks III that he is an “exemplary officer and have conducted myself with the utmost professionalism throughout my career.”

White, in a hearing Monday before Mayor-President Kip Holden, said Holden’s micromanagement of the department “began in earnest when I transferred union president Chris Stewart to the pistol range.

“No one within the Baton Rouge Police Department could verify that Mr. Stewart was doing any work, much less showing up for work,” White said. “In fact, the problem had become so significant that his supervising officers were reluctant to sign his time sheets because they did not want to get in trouble for certifying Mr. Stewart was working when they didn’t know whether he was or not.”

Stewart said he has “served with distinction” and has received numerous commendations during his 16-year tenure with the Baton Rouge Police Department.

“My time sheets, attendance records and work ethic have never been questioned,” Stewart says in the letter. “My attendance has been approved by every supervisor, as reflected by my time sheets. My performance evaluations reflect that I am a model officer.”

Stewart has not responded to interview requests, and the letter he sent to the news media Tuesday came as an attachment to an email from Dirks. The attorney wrote that Stewart wanted the statement forwarded on his behalf in order to comply with the Police Department’s media policy.

In the letter, Stewart attacked White for refusing to answer any questions during his hearing Monday in the Metro Council chambers.

“Rather than subject himself to public questioning, Chief White made baseless accusations against several officers, including myself in an effort to divert attention from his own alleged misconduct,” Stewart said.

White and his attorney, Jill Craft, have said Stewart did not go before an oral interview board before he was hired by the Police Department.

Stewart, through Dirks, released a number of documents dated from 1997 from an oral interview board assessment. The documents, filled out by the board’s interviewers, all recommend Stewart be hired by the Police Department.

“It is both sad and unfortunate that I must respond to baseless accusations in a public setting,” Stewart said. “It is unconscionable for a Chief of Police to publicly attack me and other officers without any supporting facts.”

Stewart touted the Police Department’s 1996 accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies and re-accreditation in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010.

“Chief White’s failure, however, to acknowledge the national accreditation of this Department and ignore objective facts is an insult to Mayor Holden, Chief Greg Phares, Chief Pat Englade, Chief David Whatley, Chief Jeff LeDuff, Chief Charles Mondric (sic) and the men and women who put their lives on the line every day for the citizens of this city,” Stewart wrote.

Craft, White’s attorney, said Tuesday that she had not seen the letter or documents yet and likely would have more to say about them when she has an opportunity to read them over. Craft, however, did respond to a number of the allegations outlined in the letter when asked about them in an interview.

Craft said White and Lt. Don Kelly, the Police Department’s spokesman, had complained to Holden in fall 2012 that they were reluctant to sign Stewart’s timesheets because they could not verify where Stewart was or if he was working.

Craft also lashed back at Stewart attacking White for not answering questions at Monday’s hearing, saying that asking questions at a pre-disciplinary hearing is not standard practice.

She said the purpose of the hearing was to allow her client an opportunity to respond to the allegations that had been made against him.

Holden officially fired White on Monday, nearly two weeks after Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel recommended that White be relieved of his duties.

White has accused Holden of micromanagement and has claimed the police union played a role in his firing.

Holden on Monday called the former chief a “master of deception” who disobeyed orders and divided the community during his nearly two-year tenure.

City-parish officials said they may seek clarification from the courts or state attorney general as to whether state law, which entitles White to civil service relief, trumps the local Plan of Government, which says White is an unclassified employee who serves at the mayor’s pleasure.

Craft has said she plans to file an amended appeal with the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, a five-member panel that could vote to reinstate White.