Bullen elected police chief

Published 7:50 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Kendall Bullen will be the new chief of police in Bogalusa.

The decision came toward the end of a lengthy city council meeting Tuesday evening, and not without considerable concern among some members of the African-American community concerning allegations of a “good ol’ boy” system and of police brutality stemming from the Sept. 1, 2001 arrest of Johnny Lee Johnson. Since shortly after the arrest, some members of Johnson’s family have alleged that Bullen struck Johnson in the head with a flashlight, and that action caused significant injuries to Johnson.

Johnson died last year, and although there was civil suit brought by family members, it was settled out of court and there was no finding of guilt.

None of the allegations brought up at Tuesday’s city council meeting were new, although Marvin Austin read from a transcript that he said came from an internal investigation following the Sept. 1, 2001 arrest. As of press time, the document could not be verified as legitimate.

However, according to Austin, officer Jason Williams does tell an investigator that Bullen struck Johnson in the head with a flashlight accidentally. According to the transcript, Williams is asked several times if Bullen struck Johnson with his flashlight and Williams repeatedly said he did — though he also repeats it was an accident.

The transcript, however, was not enough to convince a majority on the city council that Bullen was a bad choice. In addition, at least one member of the African-American community, Joel Miller, praised Bullen’s police work.

In the end, critics may have hardened support for Bullen, as two members of the council said they were concerned that an officer who had not been found guilty of anything was being disparaged in a public forum.

“Why do we have to be so divisive,” council member Scott Ard asked. “Where is the fairness in that? … We’re publicly executing a man right here who’s not been given a chance. I stand behind Officer Bullen 100 percent.”

Council member Teddy Drummond echoed those sentiments.

“I’ve heard people persecute a man about something that happened 15 years ago,” Drummond said. He asked why hadn’t there been any accusations since then.

“That was a long time ago,” he said. “I would not have voted for myself back in the ‘80s. People change.”

During the final vote, newly-minted council president Tamira Smith voted nay, Gloria Kates voted nay, Brian McCree voted nay, Ard voted aye, new vice president Doug Ritchie voted aye, Drummond voted aye and Sherry Fortenberry voted aye.

However, the matter seems far from settled. One of Bullen’s loudest critics, Fate Ferrell, said he would not drop the matter.

“If you go ahead and elect Kendall Bullen … you are going to be in big trouble,” Ferrell told the council. “And you can believe me or not. But you will be in big trouble.”

He then said Perrette and the council were “not right.”

James Hall then spoke. Hall is the public works director, but he said he wanted to say something as a private citizen. He told the council to ignore Ferrell because he doesn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance.

“I wouldn’t listen to a word he says,” Hall said.

In other matters, the council named Smith president and Ritchie vice president. Smith was unopposed, while Ritchie ran against Kates.

The other big news of the evening was the vote to approve the lowest offer to pave North Roosevelt Street.

According to Kates, the offer is for over $44,000.

However, the city has no money and city attorney Dale Branch said the mayor may not offer the job to Diamond D Contractors because the city cannot afford to do so.

“The mayor cannot spend money that is not in the budget,” Branch said. “You can authorize it and accept it but she cannot authorize it and accept it unless the money is there. … That being said, the council can take whatever action it wants.”

The council voted unanimously to accept the offer.

Kates said there could be money in next year’s budget.

The council also adopted a resolution to accept the election results to renew a sales tax.

The council then introduced ordinances that would amend the 2016 budget; approve and adopt the operating budget for the next fiscal year; an ordinance to prohibit smoking in the workplace; an ordinance to regulate cemetery hours, an ordinance to allow the mayor and the city to enter into a lease agreement with District A Neighborhood Association.

After that, the council approved an ordinance to purchase property on Avenue D; an ordinance to re-zone a home from A-2 residential to B-transition to accommodate a home office; and an ordinance for airport repairs.

The council rejected along a split vote an ordinance to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Washington Parish Tourist Commission that would have allowed them to set up an office in a residential area.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 20.