A public hearing was scheduled to take place immediately preceding the July Anacoco Town Council meeting last week concerning raising the salary of Police Chief Jerry Waller. Citing a lack of money in the police department’s budget Mayor Keith Lewing stated that “we” (the town) can’t afford to fund the police department.
“The budget got out of line twice this year and we had to have a special call meeting and we can’t do that. If it comes to that, we’re going to have to do something different,” Lewing said.
Which resulted in a question from a visitor.
“You can’t afford to fund our police department for the people of Anacoco?” a concerned resident asked.
“They need to take care of their own department. They should make enough money to take care of their own police department.” responded Councilwoman Laverne Miers.
The citizen then asked the council how the police department was supposed to make money other than writing tickets.
Mayor Lewing stated that he was not telling Chief Waller to write tickets but he will not write (tickets to) anyone in Anacoco.
After a short back and forth between Chief Waller and Mayor Lewing about calling Baton Rouge, Mayor Lewing did what he could to put and end to the discussion.
“All I am saying is we will watch the budget. If the budget gets to where we can’t afford two police cars we will have to go to one. That’s the bottom line. When the funds get down to where we are worried about paying our (the town) bills and the funds are coming out of the general fund side, we will have to do something,” Lewing said.
“You’re not supporting the police department, they have to support and fund themselves,” an attendee asked the council.
“This is the first time in nineteen years that we’ve had to support the police department,” Lewing responded.
This comment once again resulted in a back and forth between Chief Waller, a few audience members and members of the council concerning the police department’s budget and reallocating funds from one designated expense to pay another.
Another attendee asked what was the annual police department budget for last year and was told $67,000.
She then asked for the amount of revenue the police department received from writing tickets and was told $57,400 and the department had a total of $61,338 in expenses.
Mayor Lewing then commented when Chief Waller took office in May 2018 he was operating on the budget of the previous police chief, which was in the hole, and no one was to blame for the deficit.
Once the public hearing was adjourned and the regular council meeting began tensions were still high and tempers flared when Chief Waller gave his departmental report.
Waller asked the council about some purchase requests he submitted in May.
“I’ve been waiting and waiting to get them signed and I was told they weren’t going to be signed until after this meeting which means they come out of this year’s budget. I had more than enough money left in last year’s budget to cover that printer that I need,” Waller said.
“No sir you did not. If you would have actually come to the budget meeting you would have known.” Mayor Lewing retorted.
By the end of Chief Waller’s report several questions were raised about why money was not moved from one line item to another line item on the budget so he was able to purchase equipment needed for the police department when the council moved funds allocated to buy uniforms to pay car insurance.
The meeting veered off topic and it appeared feelings and pride were hurt by comments made calling council members stupid and accusations that Chief Waller is trying to put Mayor Lewing in jail for his attempts to control the police department and officers actions.
During 2018 Chief Waller requested an opinion from the Attorney General regarding which entity, the Chief of Police or the Town Council, has the inherent power and authority to supervise and control the police department, equipment and personnel.
The opinion dated January 8, 2019 states that the police chief, being an elected position, has complete power and authority over the police department in Anacoco and the municipality cannot infringe upon that authority.
The next town council meeting will be held Monday, August 5, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.