Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

TOP STORY >> Police promotion comes under fire

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Former Beebe Police Chief Dennis Briggs’ arrest came on the same day that former Mayor Mike Robertson, now a city alderman, took Mayor Donald Ward to task during a city council meeting Monday for what Robertson says was the questionable hiring of another police officer.
Though neither Ward nor Robertson have formally announced their intention to run for mayor in 2006, both say they likely will run.

Police Chief Jess Odom hired Alton Boyd, a 30-year veteran law-enforcement officer, as animal control officer after the position was put under his department about a month ago.
Boyd had worked for Odom when he was White County sheriff.

Two days after Boyd went to work in animal control, Odom hired him as a sergeant in the Beebe Police Department.

Some on the council called the move a promotion within the department, and City Attorney Mark Derrick agreed. But Robertson says there is no way a person can be promoted “from dog catcher to police sergeant.”
The animal control position was advertised as required by state law. In fact, it was advertised twice — once to hire Boyd, who lives in Searcy — and a second time to hire Horrace Taylor, a former Beebe council member. But the police sergeant position wasn’t advertised.

Robertson said it should have been and that furthermore, city code says the council must approve hiring in the police department.

Robertson told the council that he meant no disrespect to Boyd, but the council should have been involved. It should have been able to review all applicants’ employment files and make an informed choice.
However, he didn’t mention Briggs’ arrest during the meeting.

“Now knowing what can happen to a person, I think it’s important to get these personnel files. But I didn’t think it appropriate to bring it up about Briggs during the meeting,” he said Tuesday.
Instead, Robertson talked to The Leader after the meeting, a conversation witnessed by Ward, who was aware that Briggs had been charged with forgery, but not that he had been arrested.
Ward repeated comments he had made during the meeting, saying he trusted his police chief to hire the best people available and that nothing about the way Boyd was moved into his current position was improper.
The city council in 1999 adopted a police policy handbook that supercedes the authority of the city code that says the council is supposed to hire police officers, he said.

Robertson says if the council did that it would have been by city ordinance, and it’s not in the updated code book that he has.

Ward says he doesn’t micromanage.
He hired Odom because he is capable of managing his department. Besides, he said, Boyd has the experience to be a sergeant. And with the exception of Sgt. Corey Simmons, every other officer in the department was hired after Odom became chief in 2001.