Supervisors disciplined after JPD parking 'protest'

RAW: Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliot discusses parking 'protest' discipline

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The internal affairs investigation of last week's parking protest involving Jonesboro police officers has concluded.

The investigation began after off-duty officers parked 23 police units at the Jonesboro Municipal Center, 300 N. Church St., last Monday.

The investigation is to ensure no officers were neglecting duties at the time of the protest.

According to Chief Elliott, two supervisors who were involved with the parking incident will be suspended for three days without pay.

"They are held to a higher expectation than the patrol officers," Chief Elliott said in an exclusive interview with Region 8 News. "They failed to do their duties as a supervisors."

The supervisors will begin their time off on their next scheduled work day.

The patrol officers involved will not be reprimanded.

The officers will not be allowed to take home their patrol units anymore, though.

They will have to submit a letter to try and get that "benefit" back, as Elliott called it.

The officers are also prohibited from using any police equipment to protest or there will be more consequences.

The parked cars were meant to send a message to Mayor Harold Perrin and other city leaders over pay.

A response released by the city said that Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliot had no prior knowledge of the "exhibition of protest."

In the letter left for the city, it stated some officers were afraid to voice their opinions because they were afraid of being punished.

It stated those who have spoken out in the past have have been punished.

Elliott said the punishment mentioned did not occur during his administration and that he has an open door policy for officers.

The pay situation has been an ongoing issue for the Jonesboro Police Department.

Officers have brought the situation to the city council before also.

During a city council meeting in December, officers stood up and said they would still do their job despite their issues with pay.

A former JPD officer spoke to Region 8 News last week and said pay is a major issue in the department.

Tj Burns now protects and serves in Bay for a better salary and a better outlook. He said he felt that he wasn't valuable at JPD.

The following statement was released by the Jonesboro Police Department Monday evening:

Regarding the incident on Monday, April 25 when 23 officers elected to park their assigned take home units at City Hall:

Any officer or employee has the right to voice his or her concerns over salary without the fear of repercussion and no one has since I have been chief. I am NOT reprimanding these officers for speaking out or the fact that that they parked their cars at City Hall. I have been supporting the issue of pay for the 24 years that I have been with this department.

As I have stressed to officers over the years is that you must always be tactful in the way that you address things in public. Never do anything that would undermine the mission of the department or the public’s trust. This action has done both, plus caused more internal stress within the department.

I did launch an Internal Affairs Investigation to find out the details of this protest. We needed to know if any of these officers were being derelict in their duties when they parked their cars. Questions that needed to be answered included: Were the vehicles secured? What was the extent of the planning and were any supervisors involved? If so, to what extent were supervisors involved? Did they do anything to stop the protest or point out that there is a better way to handle this? Did they contact a superior officer for direction or to at least advise of such action was taking place?

As a result of the investigation there will be no reprimands for the officers’ actions of parking in protest and voicing their concerns over salary. Each vehicle was secured and the weapons were secured.

Two sergeants, Trey Dupuy and John Porbeck, were found to have had knowledge of this and they subsequently neglected their duties as supervisors. They have been suspended without pay for three days.

The Police Department has an employee representative who chose a select few to contact because he knew that others would have taken efforts to stop this action. Other officers within the department have expressed their disapproval of this action.

I have repeatedly asked the employee representative to come and address employee concerns; he was in fact instructed that he or anyone could come to office to discuss issues. I have repeatedly stated to the officers of this department that I have an open-door policy. In this case I am disappointed that the department employee representative failed

to bring this to my attention, but in fact was one of two who admitted that they orchestrated the whole event. Therefore, he has been removed as employee representative. The unsigned letter that was taped to the pole on the mayor’s parking spot at city hall was not read or approved by most who were involved.

At this time the officers who elected to relinquish their take-home vehicles in protest and over apparent safety concerns of them being parked at their residences has caused will utilize this vehicle at work and will continue to return it at the end of shift.

If this was not the intent of the officers involved to relinquish his/her benefit of a take-home vehicle, they will be allowed to state their case with the chief for a determination if and when this benefit will be restored.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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