Baton Rouge Union of Police Local 237 had at least two public run-ins last year with new Chief of Police Dewayne White.
Union President Chris Stewart took issue with a radio interview in which White suggested that perhaps 10% of BRPD officers were subconsciously guilty of racial profiling. The union also clashed with White over plans to eliminate seven captains’ slots to pay for three senior-level deputy chief positions.
But Stewart says he was caught off guard by White’s declaration to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge March 21 that the union was the biggest obstacle to making needed changes within the department. White said the union’s insistence on promotion “based on tenure” leads to marginal employees who stick around long enough to become marginal supervisors.
“We need to be able to put the best and the brightest in leadership positions,” White told the crowd.
“I’m not really sure where his comments came from,” Stewart says. “I’m a little disappointed that he feels that way and feels the need to say it publicly. We would hope that we could sit down and work out any differences.
Stewart says the current seniority-driven promotion system has a merit component. An officer who is promoted to sergeant, for example, holds that rank for a six-month probationary period that the chief can extend to a year. If the officer is not up to par, the higher-ups don’t have to confirm the promotion. Civil service in general is meant to prevent cronyism, he says. Stewart expects legislation will be filed this session giving police chiefs a freer hand when it comes to personnel issues.
“We believe we have a fair promotion system, and we want it to remain intact,” Stewart says.