EBR Metro Council caught off-guard by police chief's sudden exit
BATON ROUGE - Sharon Weston Broome said she would hire a new police chief while campaigning for Mayor-President last year. On a debate hosted by WBRZ just days before the election, the mayor made it clear that would make a change at BRPD if elected.
“I believe we have to have someone new at the helm,” Broome answered when asked if she would seek a replacement chief.
Still, members of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council said they were caught off guard when Police Chief Carl Dabadie beat her to the punch, stealing the thunder from the Mayor's pitch for a new transportation tax Monday morning.
Dabadie's resignation came just as the mayor held a conference for her tax plan.
The timing of the chief's move came as a surprise to council members, who said finding a new police chief could be a double-edged sword.
“We definitely don't want someone who will come in and cause our community to go backwards,” Councilwoman Tara Wicker said.
For Wicker, who steadily pushed the initiative of ‘Community Policing’ forward, finding a chief that knows the Baton Rouge community is vital.
“I think, at the end of the day, we have to get the most qualified person that cares about this community and is loyal to its citizens and the department," Wicker said. "And make sure Baton Rouge moves forward.”
She added that she expects the best person for the job would be the person to get it.
Other council members speculated on Dabadie’s retirement, saying they hope the former police chief’s resignation came as a personal choice and not one fueled by political pressure.
“'Maybe this is the time for me to move on, because the setting has become so uncomfortable,'" Councilman Matt Watson said as he tried to rationalize Dabadie’s decision. "And the moral has dropped so low amongst police officers... How long can you fight?”
Councilman Buddy Amoroso said Dabadie’s retirement isn’t a smoke screen.
“I do believe he did retire on his own, that it was a personal decision. I don't believe he was forced out,” Amoroso said.
While the Mayor and chief's relationship was a publicly difficult one, council members watched that from the sidelines. They will have to do so once again since hiring a new chief is the mayor's decision alone.
“There's no forcing a square peg in a small hole, if Jonny is not to remain interim... Eventually we're going to get another police chief. And I’d like to make sure that our police force is going to remain our police force,” Councilman Watson said.
Interim BRPD chief, Jonny Dunnam, said he will not be applying for the full-time position as chief.