Ex-BR police chief's appeal set for May

Ousted Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White will have to wait another two months to argue his case for reinstatement before the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.

White’s appeal hearing is scheduled May 13-15, Sgt. Bryan Taylor, the board’s chairman, said on Wednesday.

The board’s scheduled meeting is set May 16, Taylor noted in an email to attorneys in the case. “This will allow for a fourth day, if needed,” Taylor wrote.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden fired White last month, accusing him of disregarding several departmental policies. White was accused of showing favoritism to a hire, making inappropriate transfers and shredding documents, among other things.

He appealed his termination to the civil service board last month, contending his firing was null and void because city-parish officials had not complied with the police officer’s bill of rights. The five-member panel may re-instate White with a majority vote.

“I’m really looking 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’s attorney, Jill Craft, said Wednesday.

City-parish officials have disputed White is entitled to civil service relief, claiming he is an unclassified employee under the local plan of government. But Murphy J. Foster III, an attorney for Holden, has said the city-parish will participate in White’s appeal and produce witnesses and evidence “to set the record straight.”

Craft said the hearing will be “like a trial, except the rules of evidence are relaxed to some extent.”

Despite the high profile of the case, there are no plans to change the venue of White’s hearing from the board’s regular meeting room inside the Fire Department headquarters on Merle Gustafson Drive, Taylor said.

The Office of State Examiner, meanwhile, has tentatively set May 22 for eligible applicants to take the civil service exam for the chief’s position.

White’s firing last month drew a mixed reaction, as a number of community leaders voiced concerns over his dismissal. Some feared his departure would disrupt the progress the Police Department has made in building rapport with residents of the city’s high-crime neighborhoods.

The Rev. Jesse Bilberry Jr., of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, issued a statement Wednesday expressing support for Holden on behalf of the Fourth District Baptist Association, a group of historically black Baptist churches in the Baton Rouge region. The association found it unfortunate that “some individuals” chose to make “very public statements regarding the mayor’s decision with very few facts in hand, leaving some with the impression that that represented a larger part of our community,” Bilberry said in the statement.

“Mayor Holden has shown himself to be a steady leader, capable of making difficult decisions when action must be taken for the good of our community,” the statement added. “In the past, we have seen him use a very deliberative process when hiring a chief of police, and we trust he used the same well-thought-out process when deciding that a change needed to be made.”