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Hammond voters to decide who can remove police chief

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HAMMOND - The police department may soon need a new chief. 

"In no way am I trying to take anyone's job away," Council President Kip Andrews said on Tuesday. "I'm looking at trying to make the situation going forward better. I'm not going backwards, I'm going forward."

City council members have approved an election to amend the city charter. The amendment would allow the city council to remove the chief and voters to elect a new one. 

"Put the power back into the councilmen's hands," Devon Wells, City Councilman, District 3, said. "It's been in the mayor's hands. We're the same people that sit there when the mayor brought him before us. We voted for him to be the chief, but we have no power to the tell the chief we have issues with him."

It's an action Wells, other council members, and several community members have called for since Chief Edwin Bergeron was appointed and a video came to light. It shows Kentdrick Ratliff in handcuffs, getting beaten, stomped, tased, and kicked inside of a booking room in Hammond. The officers involved were Bergeron, and Craig Dunn.

"We were very involved in that, we had conversations with the city administration at that time, and there was no movement on that," Michael Showers, President of the NAACP for Tangipahoa Parish said.

Following the release of that video, the city hired an attorney, and a use of force expert. Despite what council members said, Bergeron remained in office.

"We were told the FBI was investigating, that panned out to not be true.  We were told, even in the Lionell Jackson situation, the FBI is investigating. We have yet to see that, we hope that is true," Showers said.

Now, there is another video many are eagerly wanting released to the public, which is body camera footage from officers who entered Lionell Jackson's home over the summer during a no knock warrant. Officer Dunn, a relative of Bergeron, shot Jackson.

That video has yet to be released as the city attorney says it is still under investigation, which an investigation many are calling a cover up.

"You can clearly see there is blood on Lionell's pillow, the pillow he was on. You can see from the angle where this guy shot, he was in his bed. Any story they're trying to bring forward right now, will not be supported by the evidence," attorney Daryl Washington previously told WBRZ.

Before an election can be held, council members will have to go in front the State Bond Commission to put the amendments onto the ballot. The election could be as early as April. 

The voters have to make a decision. Do they want the power to go to the council, or the power to stay in the mayors hands?", Wells said.

Watch the full council meeting here.

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