At Tuesday’s Beaumont City Council Meeting, Frank Velasquez, President of the Beaumont Police Officers Association (BPOA), acting as a private citizen, called for an “independent investigation (to) be launched against Chief Frank Coe and Commander Greg Fagan.”
I was aware of the Votes of No Confidence by the BPOA against Chief Coe and Commander Fagan that Officer Velasquez referenced last night. I have spoken to a number of law enforcement officers, not associated with the Beaumont Police Department, who are citizens of Beaumont who have told me of their concerns regarding the morale of BPD. I recently learned from BPD officers their concerns about the department’s inability to recruit enough officers to keep pace with departures due to retirement and officers leaving as a result of the personnel issues Officer Velasquez addressed.
Unfortunately, besides what I’ve been able to learn through third party conversations, I don’t know much more about the BPD issues. Very few issues regarding BPD ever make it in to the open, public portion, of the council meeting. Personnel and litigation issues are only addressed in closed session and the council members and staff are prohibited from discussing them in public.
I can’t confirm or deny the validity of Officer Velasquez’s claims or the reasons behind the BPOA’s Votes of No Confidence. I can confirm that “The council, mayor and city manager have had knowledge of VONC against the chief for 1 year.” I can also confirm that no public action has been taken by the council. I think it is safe to assume that nothing has been done behind the scene, within the department. If something had been, there would have been no reason for Officer Velasquez to make his statement last night and for the many other officers, acting as private citizens, to show up to support him. If the officers believe their own claims, they knew last night they were risking the targeted discipline and retaliation they say is degrading their department.
I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the BPOA doesn’t believe any of the council members are in their corner. I believe this is another example of the culture in the City of Beaumont where leadership comes from the City administration and not an elected city council.
Look for council members, especially those up for re-election, to give Officer Velasquez’s request for an independent investigation lip service in the next council meeting. I predict the council will try to push this off beyond the election as they have with the other important issues facing our city (i.e. Internal Controls Report, Recycled Water, WRCOG lawsuit). From what little I know, I believe we would all benefit from an independent investigation of the department’s leadership. I know if I were in Chief Coe or Commander Fagan’s shoes, I would welcome a chance to clear my name.
Recently, while reviewing the City’s municipal code - something I do in my free time so you don’t have to - I uncovered an interesting fact.
2.08.020 Election or appointment. The city council, the city clerk, the city treasurer, and the chief of police shall be elected in accordance with the laws of the state.
The ordinance in this section of code, last distributed in May of 2012, specifically states shall be elected, not may be elected. Why isn’t the council following its own set of laws? Lack of accountability is one of my major complaints with this council and administration. I wonder, if they followed their own laws and had a chief of police that was accountable to the voters every four years, would we still have morale and recruitment problems?
It would make the chief accountable to the citizens he serves. It would also make it less expensive to replace an ineffective or unpopular chief of police. An election would also give the officers as well as the community an alternative to an investigation.
I don’t know enough yet to make a decision today as to whether an elected chief of police would solve the morale and recruitment problems of the BPD but I think it is a discussion we should have. If the council had this discussion and still decided to not elect the chief, they should update their ordinance.
We need new leadership on the council to solve the problems our current council has been facing and avoiding. If I am elected I will provide that leadership. I will work to bring to Beaumont a government that accepts responsibility for its decisions and conducts its business in a way that commands respect. Please give me an opportunity, vote for Lloyd White for City Council on November 4.