Officer in wheelchair terminated
BRUSLY - A school resource officer, who should have been certified to fire his department-issued weapon, was terminated by Interim Brusly Police Chief Richie Johnson because he was not able to officially carry a gun.
Gill Banta was hired in December 2008 at the direction of then-Chief Jamie Whaley. Banta, who is in a wheelchair, is required by Louisiana law to be POST certified.
"Upon my hiring in 2008, no POST requirements were brought to my attention, nor did the council, or the council then, address such issues," Banta told the Brusly City Council and Mayor Monday night. "I have been doing this job for over five years with no complaints, until Interim Chief Johnson takes office."
Johnson says Banta was never issued a weapon by the Brusly Police Department, but instead carried his own.
"He was actually carrying a weapon and was not certified to carry a weapon," said Johnson.
Johnson says when Whaley was leaving office, he informed him there was an issue with the school resource officer not being certified, not being able to get certified and not being POST firearm certified.
Louisiana law requires new hires to be post certified within 12 months of their hire date. Johnson says he can't make exceptions for anyone and had no choice but to remove Banta from his position.
"This is a mismanagement issue," Johnson said before the council. "This happened back when Gill was hired. Was it Gill's fault? I don't know. That's between Gill and Jamie. Was it Jamie's fault, my friend the former chief? Yes, yes."
Two councilmen, Joanne Bourgeois and Shane Andre' approved Banta assuming the position in 2008. Bourgeois said because Banta was recommended by Chief Whaley and had prior law enforcement experience as a communications officer in Iberville Parish, she assumed he was qualified.
"We were told that he would be attending that program and be certified for that position," she said.
Banta said he was merely an employee who worked at the behest of his chief. During the summer months when school was not in session, Banta said he worked in the evidence room.
"I can still be a valuable asset to that police department without carrying a firearm, without making an arrest," said Banta.
The council voted in favor of Chief Johnson's recommendation of termination of employment for Banta, with the exception of Councilman Andre'.
The position of School Resource Officer will remain unfilled for the time being.