"PBA's lack of confidence is with Chief Jones and her lack of leadership within the department," said Arkansas Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Scott Hicks from the podium.
The Pine Bluff Police Chief has received a vote of "no confidence" from the PBA on February 23, 2012, announced in a letter to the Pine Bluff City Council at its meeting Monday night.
"The members of the department had enough of it and called for the vote of no confidence," Hicks said. "That vote was initiated by officers in the department.
Eighty-six Pine Bluff police officers are members, all but three supported the vote of "no confidence" in their department head. Two members abstained from voting, and one voted no.
"She don't follow guidelines set forth in policies and procedures," Hicks said. "And its led to an ongoing, onslaught of harassment and discrimination for officers."
Chief Brenda Davis-Jones was not at the Pine Bluff City Council meeting, and we were not able to reach her for comment.
"I have all the confidence in the world that she'll continue doing the job she's been doing to reduce crime in this community," said Mayor Carl Redus.
Redus believes the vote of "no confidence" has less to do with the police chief's performance than it does the Association's efforts to get even.
"I think it has to do with the Police Benevolent Association is really crying over spilled milk," Redus said. "They lost the lawsuit, they don't hire the police chief, I do."
The lawsuit Redus is referring to stemmed from the Pine Bluff City Council's vote to abolish the Civil Service Commission back in 2007, replacing it with a three-person review panel. The Association fought the dissolution of the commission for over four years. The review panel was something of a compromise.
"It's better than nothing, but it doesn't do what the Civil Service Commission does," Hicks said. "That's to provide fair and equal treatment across the board."
"Are you only giving this vote of no confidence as retaliation for the commission being abolished?" KARK asked Hicks.
"No, absolutely not. We weren't even aware of the issue of the civil service commission being brought up until Friday (March 2, 2012)," Hicks said. "We took this vote on February 23rd."
Alderman Steven Mays, has proposed an ordinance that would reinstate the commission. It was read the first time, placed on the calendar, and not discussed further at Monday's meeting.
"Ever since we got rid of it [the commission], all we've had is division, confusion, and a lot misunderstanding within our Police Department," Mays said.
"I think there are modifications to be made, changes that could happen," Redus said. "But we fought for the past five years over abolishing the commission. That doesn't mean we need to just throw this system we have in place out."
Some of the division Mays referred to has come from controversy that's cropped up over the past month, according to Hicks. Assistant Police Chief Ivan Whitfield was fired by Jones after he lost his service weapon, which was found at a murder scene. The City Council later voted to reinstate Whitfield to his position.
Detective Marty Harrison was placed on suspension, initially along with Whitfield, for being unable to find his off-duty weapon.
"It was a boiling point, I guess as the cliche goes the straw that broke the camels back," Hicks said.
But Mayor Redus wouldn't address the termination and suspension directly, attributing the debate again to bad blood over the Civil Service Commission.
"You don't think this has anything to do with the controversy that's cropped up in the police department month?"
"I can't begin to speculate, I'm sure it has to do with a lot of things," Redus said. "I'm sure it mostly has to do with the Police Benevolent Association crying over spilled milk."
City Council member Thelma Walker has also proposed an ordinance to expand the current review panel from three to 10 members. That ordinance was also read the first time, placed on the calender, but received no further discussion.
During the public comment period, three different individuals, the only members of the audience to address the Council aside from Hicks, asked the city reinstate the Civil Service Commission.
When asked about the future of the ordinances, Mayor Redus said he did not anticipate either passing at this time.
"I don't think either one will pass, because they are in conflict with what we presently have in place," he said.
"And you think what we have in place is better?" KARK asked him.
"It needs some modifications. I don't see any reason to throw it out."
The Council's next meeting will be on March 19th.