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Archives 02-21-2007

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Police chief receives support at called meeting
Arrests made in recent burglaries

Emergency drill to take place at Overton school

 

Police chief receives support at called meeting

Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
Police Chief Roger Phillips stands before the City Council as Alderman James "Pug" Lee asks what the police chief has done to merit being removed from the position. Ultimately, Chief Phillips received a vote of confidence.

By DEWAIN E. PEEK, OCN staff
What appeared to be a called meeting for the purpose of transferring Police Chief Roger Phillips to another position instead ended with a vote of confidence for Livingston's top cop.

Livingston City Council held the called meeting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, with all aldermen present.

Mayor Curtis Hayes began by saying, "This meeting's called to talk about the police department, in particular to talk about the chief."

He then invited those assembled to speak in an orderly fashion.

Mayor Hayes said, "The last six months, under my observation I've not really liked the direction of the police department."

He said he has voiced his concerns to Chief Phillips during that time.

"Roger and I have talked on several occasions, and they've not been knock-down drag-outs. I want to clear that up," Mayor Hayes said. "We've had some professional conversations."

He said what he was proposing was an involuntary transfer.

"It's not a question of termination. It's simply a transfer," Mayor Hayes said. "It would be a lateral move, all benefits, salary the same."

Chief Phillips stood up before the Council and said, "Fourteen years ago nearly, I stood before this board and pledged my allegiance to this city, to the mayor, and to the board. And nothing has changed in that 14 years. I stand before you tonight still pledging my allegiance to the city, and the board, and the mayor."

He informed them that he has served at Livingston Police Department for 18 years, and has been in law enforcement around 21 years.

"I stand before you, asking that I continue as your chief of police until my retirement," he said.

He told the aldermen that no matter what they decided to do, he would still be their friend, and that he was willing to accept the board's will.

But he maintained, "I don't think I've done anything wrong."

Alderman James "Pug" Lee asked, "What is it about?"

Mayor Hayes said, "Well, I don't like the direction the police department's going."

And when pressed further, he added, "I don't like the way that, for some reason, other departments, seems like they're not cooperating with us, we're not cooperating with them."

Alderman John McLeod, who is employed by Overton County Sheriff's Department, said, "I'd like to address that issue myself, since I'm in kind of a peculiar situation in regards to that."

He said Livingston Police Department has cooperated with him.

Alderman Lee again asked for a reason why Chief Phillips should be transferred.

Mayor Hayes cited the morale of the department, turnover, and that officers had told him there was an inside clique.

Chief Phillips told them he did not give preferential treatment.

In addressing staff turnover, Chief Phillips said, "In the last over a year, we've only lost three people. One of those was because of a domestic issue you are very aware of, the other one left to go to the Sheriff's Office, because he chose to do that. And the other man left to go to Nashville because of a better paying job. That's the only turnover there's been in the last couple of years."

Many members of the police department were in attendance to show support for Chief Phillips. Alderman Lee later estimated it as 90% of the department.

The first of many Livingston Police officers to speak was Bill Randolph, who said he has worked for Chief Phillips for 11 years.

"If there's been any preferential treatment to anybody, I haven't seen it," he told the aldermen.

He went on to tell them, "Unfortunately, in the line of work that we choose to do, you're not going to satisfy everybody. You're not going to make everybody happy. It's impossible."

Captain Tim Emerton was next to address the aldermen.

He requested, "Let him retire with dignity."

School Resource Officer Ray Smith next spoke, telling of how he became an officer on the LPD force, and how much he respects Chief Phillips.

He said, "Our chief does a whale of a good job."

Local businessman L.G. Puckett III spoke to the aldermen, telling of Chief Phillips' work with kids and how much he trusts the police chief. "If there is a reason, let's get it out in the open and see what it is," Puckett pleaded. He went on to say, "You'all better think long and hard about getting rid of a man like Roger Phillips."

Another police officer, Tim Poore, then informed the board of how much he respects Chief Phillips as a leader.

As for what position Phillips would be transferred to, Mayor Hayes told the board that Phillips had suggested being given the position of park ranger. Mayor Hayes said the town needed more security around the airport and around the two parks.

Alderman David Langford told the other aldermen that his wrecker service often places him around policemen when they can talk candidly, and said no one on the police force had ever told him of concerns with the police chief.

"I think that if we move this man, we're going to waste approximately $100,000 of the taxpayers' money, because we're going to push him somewhere that we don't need him," Alderman Langford said.

The police chief's salary is more than $40,000 per year.

"Then we're going to have to hire somebody at big-time dollars to fill his spot," Alderman Langford said.

Patrolman Anthony Phillips, Roger's son, addressed the board and informed the aldermen that he received no favoritism, noting that his shift is one of the least wanted on the force.

"And that's fine," he said. "It's worked out well for me."

Mayor Hayes brought up more concerns about the police department, saying he had received calls complaining that the chief is never seen out in town, that Livingston is not a kid-friendly town, and that Chief Phillips is not working with the committees in town as well as he should.

"I think business owners in town would love to see the chief more," Mayor Hayes said. "I think things going on on the square, in town, need to see the presence of the police chief."

Alderman Bill Winningham said he had heard the same.

"I think the chief needs to be visible," Alderman Winningham said.

He had concerns that Chief Phillips had gotten stagnant in the position. Alderman Winningham also expressed the need for a greater law enforcement presence at Livingston City Park, Winningham Memorial Park, and Livingston Airport.

Patrolman Phillips asked why no officers were coming forward to accuse Chief Phillips.

Mayor Hayes said, "There's officers that are scared to do that, afraid of punishment."

Mayor Hayes went on to say, "I think it's time for a change. Based on the direction I see the department going, based on the morale, based on turnover, based on the visibility of the police chief in the town."

Alderman Lee said, "I remember the time when a mayor told him (Chief Phillips) his job was over at the police department, to manage the police department -it wasn't out running up and down the road."

Private citizens spoke up in support of Chief Phillips.

One of them, Ray Sidwell, said, "Why throw a good thing away?"

Next to speak in Chief Phillips' favor was Jarman Hicks, member of Livingston Police Department, and then Logan Carpenter, another LPD patrolman, spoke in support of the police chief.

Rick Brown, 17-year veteran of the LPD, then spoke and set forth that police department personnel are expected to have discipline.

"There's some standards that have to be met, rules that have to be enforced, and any time you tell anyone to do something, a lot of times they're not going to accept that authority," he said

SRO Smith spoke up again to say that Chief Phillips has helped many kids at D.A.R.E. Camp and in other ways.

"I think it would be a great waste having him up here guarding trees," he said.

Melissa Barnes, who works in the office of Livingston Police Department, said Chief Phillips listens to people all day, and that some days he doesn't get to eat lunch because he is listening to people.

Chief Phillips said, "I try my level best to get out in that car when I can. I appreciate the tips that everybody has given me. I've had tips for the last six months -╩you need to make more drug cases, you need to be out visible more. I've tried to do all that. I try to satisfy what the people I serve want."

He then asked that a resolution be found that night.

"I want tonight to be the end of whatever," Chief Phillips said, "for the last six months it's been tough.

"The morale problem we're talking about, the morale problem has been because these people who wear blue have not known what direction they're going. They have not known who their leader is going to be.

"And to be honest with you, I have not known whether I was going to be working or not the next day, and if I did, whether it was going to tick somebody off enough that I wouldn't have a job when I did it.

"I want it over tonight. Either I'm going to be the chief of police and do the job or put me on a mower or whatever. Tomorrow, I want some direction."

He again put forth that no matter what was decided they would all be friends the next day.

"I want to retire as your chief of police, but I'll honor any request you make of me," he said. "I made that vow 14 years ago."

Alderman Lee said, "You can't do your job if you don't know where you're going to be tomorrow." Alderman McLeod spoke up again, saying, "I've been a city police officer, I've been a deputy sheriff. You don't make friends, generally, enforcing the law because you're going to make somebody mad, unfortunately. But it goes with the territory. It's a fact. Everybody that's pinned the badge on can tell you. And some of the very people that you attempt to help will be the very people that'll make the biggest complaint about you."

He later added, "If someone's got a complaint, I'd like to see it face-to-face."

Alderman Lynn King said people had spoken to him with concerns about the police department, and that some he had found to have merit.

Chief Phillips said, "You and I talked. All these complaints that you've been getting, I told you that they had to come to me. And they've still not come to me. And I asked you then, if you would just direct them.

"If I don't know about it, I can't help it. If I'm not aware of the problem, I can't try to fix it."

Chief Phillips said he told Alderman King that if the people did not want to speak directly, that he could relay the problem to him. He said he hasn't received any information from Alderman King.

Alderman Lee said, "Let's settle it."

And Chief Phillips followed, "Let's get this settled tonight."

Chief Phillips told the aldermen that he was willing to work with them on any realistic concerns.

"Get me a list of what you want me to do," Chief Phillips said. "If I can't do it, I'll ask you to call a called meeting and I'll stand here and tell you that this is unrealistic, I can't. Do with me what you want.

"But I don't want to go back to work tomorrow with this hanging over my head."

Alderman Lee made a motion, saying, "We let the chief of police run that department, and let these men back here realize that he's going to be the chief of police, and this ain't going to come up next week."

Alderman Robert Jolley, who had silently listened through the proceeding, then spoke up to praise the professionalism of the police department and said that professionalism comes from the top spot.

"Let's either move him somewhere tonight, or let's get off his back and stop this crap," Alderman Jolley said.

Alderman Winningham said, "I kind of thought it was all cut and dried when we came to this tonight. But evidently it wasn't."

He indicated that he thought Phillips had agreed to take the park position.

City Attorney Kelly Williams addressed the aldermen, telling of the dedication of Mayor Hayes.

"I have never seen anybody be as aggressive and interested in the city as this man here," she said of the mayor.

She then went on to speak favorably of Chief Phillips.

She said they all had gotten along like a big family, and hoped they would all go back that way.

Alderman Lee again made his motion to keep Phillips as chief. Alderman Jolley seconded the motion. The motion passed.

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Arrests made in recent burglaries

Arrests made in recent burglaries Two Overton County residents were arrested last week after Livingston Police Department responded to a reported burglary in progress at a Hidden Valley Drive residence.

Upon officers arriving in the area, Livingston Patrolman Tim Porter stopped a silver colored mini-van on Golf Lane, as it was leaving the area. The mini-van was driven by Eva Diane Whited, 49, of Hardy's Chapel Road.

Allegedly, Whited, along with a passenger, Jeremy Pennington, 27, had stopped at several residences along the road, asking about cleaning gutters. Whited stopped at a Valley Drive Road home, where a young lady was at home, and Pennington walked to the front door and was attempting to make entry.

According to reports, a call was placed to the 911 Center, and the Livingston Police dispatch was notified. Responding officers took Pennington into custody after he fled on foot from the scene, after making forcible entry into an outbuilding at the residence. Pennington was charged by Detective Tim Poore with burglary and vandalism in the case.

Whited was charged with burglary and possession of drug paraphernalia in the case, along with being wanted on a capias from Putnam County.

Whited was jailed on an $11,000 bond. Pennington was held without bond in the case.

Pennington was reportedly on felony probation for attempted aggravated robbery in Overton County.

Det. Poore notified Overton County Sheriff's Department investigators as the burglary investigation progressed, giving them information that the duo was involved in other crimes in the outlying areas of Livingston. Both Whited and Pennington are suspected to have been involved in several home burglaries and thefts in the Hilham and Upper Hilham Road areas.

Livingston Police Chief Roger Phillips commended his officers for their quick action in taking Pennington and Whited into custody and assisting other agencies in clearing home burglaries and recovering personal property stolen in those crimes.

Chief Phillips said, "By working together, everyone wins. Citizen's tips were instrumental in bringing this crime spree to a close."

According to the Sheriff's Department, the home of Pat Gore and the home of Matt Eldridge were burglarized on Friday, Feb. 9, and a truck belonging to Kevin Abston was burglarized on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The Sheriff's Dept. indicated charges are pending against Whited and Pennington in the cases, and that charges are also pending against other individuals who were involved in disposing of stolen property.

Sheriff's Dept. personnel expressed appreciation to Det. Poore for his assistance in the resolution of the crimes.

 

 

 

 

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Emergency drill to take place at Overton school

During the week of February 28, Overton County School System, Overton County Sheriff's Department, Overton/Pickett County E-911, and various other emergency agencies will conduct an emergency drill involving one of Overton County's elementary schools.

The exact date, time, and location are being withheld from the public.

The drill is to test the readiness of these agencies in the event a real emergency were ever to occur.

Residents are asked to exhibit patience if motor travel is momentarily disrupted.

Dr. Diane Sadler, on behalf of Overton County School System, said, "The safety of our children and students is of critical importance to everyone. The only realistic way to evaluate our county's emergency preparedness capability is to practice and modify if needed."

Any questions or comments may be directed to Dr. Sadler at the Central Education Office by calling (931) 823-1287 or by calling Traci Harris, public relations/information officer with Overton/Pickett County E-911 at (931) 823-8594.

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Overton County News
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