Minden City Council at work

MINDEN, La. - The manpower shortage in the Minden Police Department has been decreased by two. But it took a mayor’s veto Tuesday to get it that way.

Mayor Terry Gardner – entering his third month in office – issued a letter of veto in response to a 3-2 vote Monday night denying employment of two police officers who had been recommended by Police Chief Steve Cropper and the city’s Personnel Committee.

The vote split along racial lines with the three black council members – Herbert Taylor III, Terika Williams-Walker and Vincen Bradford – voting against, and the two white council members – Keith Beard and Pam Bloxom – voting in their favor.

It would take 4 of the 5 council members to override the veto, Gardner said.

“We already have an investment in them,” Gardner told KTBS as his main reason to hire the two men, one of whom is going to work immediately.

The Police Department has approximately 34 employees, including patrolmen, detectives and dispatchers. They have five patrol slots open, with a sixth anticipated in the coming days.

The employment of William Wright, who is a POST certified officer, and Lowell Lister will fill two spots. A third employment is anticipated in April when another POST certified officer will be put before the council for consideration, Gardner said.

“It’s hard to find police officers,” Gardner said, adding the city’s low pay could be one of the reasons.

The council’s vote started a flood of comments on an officer's social media post, with current officers and citizens commenting about their concern for safety given the manpower shortage.

Veteran police Officer Shawn Griffith wrote that some officers are working 12-hour shifts seven days a week, leaving them mentally and physically drained. Continuing to do that could have dangerous consequences for officers and citizens, he said in the post.

“Minden is not lost yet. … Y’all have some of the best front line officers I have ever worked with,” wrote Eric Swartout.

None of the comments supported the vote of the three council members.

However, council member Taylor commented on his own Facebook page after sharing a published report about the meeting. He said he was elected by the community to be their voice and that’s what he plans to be: “A voice for the people.”

After Gardner’s veto letter was posted on the city’s Facebook page many people expressed their appreciation.

“Thank you, Terry Gardner. Very proud of your leadership with this very difficult situation!!! Prayers for you and our council, that everyone will ‘make it work’ as they swore they would when taking office and move forward quickly,” wrote Linda Tucker-Johnson.

Gardner said the three who opposed Wright’s and Lister’s employment wanted to hire certified candidates. Anyone interested in the open positions is welcomed to apply with the police chief, the mayor said.

Here are some of Gardner’s reasons for the veto action:

  • Wright and Lister were interviewed by Cropper.
  • Lister passed the examination administered by the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board with a score of 91 percent and Wright with a score of 95 percent.
  • Both applicants were brought before an interview panel consisting of Capt. Marvin Garrett, Capt. Julie Harmon, Lt. Chris Cheatham, Lt. Keith King and Lt. Ryan Barnette.
  • Personal and work references were checked on both candidates.
  • Both candidates appeared before the Minden Personnel Committee with the committee recommending their confirmation to the Minden City Council.
  • Both candidates completed psychological evaluation, polygraph testing, physical and drug screen testing at the expense of the city.
  • The council vote against the recommendation of the police chief and Personnel Committee is unprecedented in the City of Minden.

“I firmly believe we should stand behind the recommendation of Police Chief Steve Cropper and the Minden Personnel Committee and confirm William Wright and Lowell Lister as Minden Police Officers,” Gardner said in the letter.