East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden has decided to appoint Lt. Carl Dabadie as interim police chief, city-parish officials said Wednesday.
Dabadie, by virtue of his position as chief of staff, had been serving as acting police chief since Police Chief Dewayne White’s ouster.
White, who was accused of insubordination and violating departmental policy, was not officially terminated until Monday. But Dabadie had assumed the chief’s duties Feb. 6, the day White received a letter informing him of his proposed firing and cleaned out his desk.
Dabadie’s appointment, which had not been made official late Wednesday, will last for up to three months and can be extended an additional three months as the city-parish searches for White’s successor, said William Daniel, Holden’s chief administrative officer.
“We discussed some other people,” Daniel said, “but in the end we decided that Carl was the man for the job.”
The search process for a new chief was formally put into motion Wednesday as city-parish officials asked the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board to schedule an examination for the position.
Dabadie, who applied for the chief’s position in 2011 after former Police Chief Jeff LeDuff stepped down, said he has not ruled out applying for the job again. He made a list of the top 11 candidates but was not named one of five finalists by Holden’s advisory committee.
In a brief telephone interview, Dabadie acknowledged the challenge of steadying department morale in the wake of White’s highly publicized dismissal and the turmoil surrounding it.
“This has all kind of been a whirlwind here the last couple of weeks, but we’re still doing our job,” Dabadie said. “We’re serving the community and keeping them safe, just like we’ve always done.”
The search for Baton Rouge’s next police chief comes as White prepares to appeal his termination to the civil service board, a five-member panel that could vote to re-instate him. City-parish officials have maintained White is an unclassified employee under the Plan of Government, which conflicts with a state statute entitling White to an appeal hearing before the civil service board.
The civil service board’s chairman, Sgt. Bryan Taylor, said the board plans to hold a hearing for White, but it might not be held until April or May, depending on whether the board first considers the termination appeal of another officer, Cpl. Jeffrey Webb.
Webb was terminated after being arrested on felony charges that were later reduced to a misdemeanor, Taylor said.
The earliest White’s appeal could be heard is March 21, but Taylor said it’s not clear whether Webb’s will be taken up before White’s.
“It’s not as simple as if we continue one then the next one comes up because of the time it takes to issues subpoenas,” Taylor said. “We kind of have to play that by ear as we go.”
Taylor has said that White filed an untimely appeal with the civil service board last week; White’s attorney, Jill Craft, has said she plans to file an amended pleading.
Webb’s appeal had been scheduled for the civil service board meeting Thursday but a request was made for a continuance due to a change in attorneys representing the police chief. Attorney John Naquin is replacing Joseph N. Lotwick in that role, said Lt. Don Kelly, a police spokesman.
City-parish officials, meanwhile, are still weighing their options ahead of White’s civil service appeal. Murphy J. Foster III, Holden’s attorney in the proceedings, said the city-parish has decided not to seek a state attorney general’s opinion on whether the Plan of Government trumps state law as it pertains to White’s civil service status.
Foster said the city-parish could ignore White’s appeal; seek a restraining order and injunction from the 19th Judicial District Court based on the constitutional argument; or “participate fully in the civil service hearing.”
“If Chief White chooses, he could drag this out through the court system for another couple of years,” Foster said. “We feel very good about our chances because we feel very good about the facts.”
For the time being, Dabadie takes the reins of a department shaken by White’s abrupt departure.
“We’re going to focus through this transitional period on community service and doing our jobs,” Dabadie said. “That’s going to be the order of the day I guess you could say.”
Dabadie, 47, began his career with the Police Department as an academy recruit in 1986, three years after graduating from Baker High School. He has served the department as a uniform patrol officer, motorcycle officer, academy staff instructor and academy director.
Dabadie’s father, Carl Robert Dabadie, also was a police motorcycle officer. He died in the line of duty in a 1984 motorcycle accident.
Rebekah Allen contributed to this article.