Shelby mayor suspends police chief
by Chance Wright
Sep 12, 2012 | 2902 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Shelby Mayor Kermit Stanton imposed an immediate suspension of Patrick Johnson, interim chief of the Shelby Police Department, after the regular scheduled monthly meeting of the board of aldermen on Sept. 4.

According to the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, only the Board of Aldermen can suspend city employees without pay and therefore Johnson's time on the mayor's suspension must be paid by the city.

The suspension stems from alleged insubordination on part of the chief toward instructions given by Stanton.

"Due to your refusal to utilize all personnel currently employed part-time by the city of Shelby, you have caused some employees to work extended hours that could have been minimized," said Stanton in a letter, obtained by The Bolivar Commercial, addressed to Johnson and dated Sept. 4.

"On three occasions, I've asked you specifically to schedule all part-time employees to work in an effort to reduce stress and fatigue," Stanton continued. "Therefore, your failure to comply with my directive leaves me with no other choice but to suspend you immediately."

Shelby Alderman Dan Harris said that the issue in question involves an officer who was terminated and was reinstated by Stanton’s veto.

"The officer in question works for another law enforcement agency in the county," said Harris in an e-mail to The Bolivar Commercial. "When requested by Chief Johnson to provide a schedule from his primary job so that he could be scheduled properly with the city of Shelby, the officer refused to do so. The officer, as of this day, has not provided a schedule. Therefore Chief Johnson did not schedule him. All other part-time officers provided a schedule. Then officers want to dictate to us when they can work. If you can’t work when we need you to work, then we don’t need you."

According to Harris, Mississippi state statue gives supervising control of the day-to-day operation of the city to the mayor, pursuant to Section 21-3-15.  he chief of police is the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality pursuant to Section 21-21-1.

"The mayor has the authority to observe activities of the police chief and police officers and to report to the board of alderman on the activities of the department," Harris continued. "The mayor does not have the authority to supervise law enforcement by the police chief on a daily basis."

According to the Mississippi Attorney General's Opinion No. 97-0640, a chief of police has the ultimate authority to control and supervise any officers employed by the city.

"A chief of police has the ultimate statutory authority to control and supervise, i.e., establish shift work, of all police officers employed by the municipality," said the AG's opinion. "The mayor does not have authority to supervise law enforcement by a police chief on a daily basis."

"Mayor Stanton’s letter says the chief failed to comply with his directive," said Harris. "The mayor has no directive to give. Instead of trying to work with Chief Johnson, the mayor is trying to tear him down."

Stanton signed another letter addressed to Johnson on city letterhead dated Sept. 10 that continued the chief's suspension.

"On Aug. 31, standing outside of Daniel's Snacks while I was asking you about utilization of all Police Department personnel, you became pugnacious," said Stanton. "Your temperamental behavior was demonstrated in the conversation with me and I've had complaints from Police Department personnel and citizens in the community. This concerns me because this can be a liability to the city of Shelby."

Stanton also alleged in the second letter that, "the departmental complaints of misconduct concerning asking officers to destroy evidence must be investigated and cleared and any legal issues resolved.

"In the interest of the citizens of the city of Shelby, I am continuing your suspension until written notification is received and verified that these issues have been resolved."

Neither Stanton nor Johnson could be reached for comment and there was no official statement on who was acting as interim police chief.

The Bolivar Commercial will continue to report on this issue as it unfolds.