BSL mayor releases statement on removal of acting police chief - - The News for South Mississippi

BSL mayor releases statement on removal of acting police chief

Matt Issman (Photo source: WLOX) Matt Issman (Photo source: WLOX)

After just two weeks on the job, Matt Issman is no longer the acting police chief in Bay St. Louis. Issman told WLOX News Now that Mayor Mike Favre removed him from the position after a disagreement over “the operation of the police department and the independence of the chief of police in conducting investigations.”

Favre said in a statement Issman was not removed because of a disagreement, but because of lack of communication after the mayor questioned the investigative process under Issman's command.

On September 26, 2017, Interim Chief of Police Matt Issman was relieved of his duties.  It is my intent to discuss this pending personnel matter with our city council at the regularly scheduled city council meeting on Tuesday, October 3, 2017.

Since the traffic stop incident Mr. Issman referenced, I have experienced a serious lack of communication from Mr. Issman.  I questioned the integrity of the investigative process under his command.  Mr. Issman has not been forthcoming with pertinent, relevant investigative details.

Mr. Issman’s indication that his separation stems from a “disagreement” is correct.  I disagree with not following our own policies, not conducting a thorough investigation in accordance with acceptable police standards and not openly communicating with your superiors and our government authorities.  Very simply put, in order to be a leader within the City of Bay Saint Louis, I expect you to do your job and do it correctly. 

As a candidate for Mayor, I ran on the premise that I would be accountable, responsive and transparent in all government operations.  That said, I intend for every decision made by myself or my leaders to map back to these fundamental values.  These values are not just a campaign promise, but should serve as a moral compass for the work of all civil servants in Bay Saint Louis.  It is important that as public servants, we align our values to serve the common good of our citizens.

As Mayor, I expect the highest level of service from every employee.  I expect to be able to fully support the rightful actions of our police officers who work in one of the toughest jobs in government work.  As Mayor and Council, we cannot have a leader on our team who does not transparently and effectively communicate with me, thereby not allowing me to transparently and effectively communicate with the council.  As a Mayor that has previously served as Councilman, I am not prepared to accept failed communication as a rift in the mayor/council relationship.

In this process, I remain firmly committed to those principles on which I ran for as Mayor, to include being accountable and holding staff accountable while operating in a responsive and transparent manner.  I anticipate selecting a Chief of Police that fully supports those values as a leader within the City of Bay Saint Louis.

According to Issman, Favre interfered in the investigation of a traffic stop last week that led to a police chase and ended with an officer firing his weapon. No one was hurt in the incident, Issman said.

The investigation was turned over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation while the Bay St. Louis Police Department conducted an internal investigation into whether the officer involved followed proper procedure.

Issman said the mayor then decided to get involved.

“He was just trying to interfere with the investigation by assigning someone with a conflict of interest, and I pointed it out to him, and he wasn't appreciative. He wanted the officer only reporting directly to him, which violates state law and Attorney General’s opinions on the independence of the police department and conducting investigations,” said Issman.

Issman said the mayor did not say what his interest was in this particular case.

In a message to police department personnel announcing the removal of Issman, Favre says Lt. Push Phillips will manage the day-to-day operations of the police department and will report directly to the mayor.

Issman was named acting chief on Sept. 12 after Darren Freeman resigned from the position amid concerns over a video from a May drug arrest.

BSL mayor admits arrest video led to chief's resignation

Freeman took command of the police department after the suicide of former chief Mike DeNardo last year.  

As he was cleaning out his office Tuesday, Issman said he knew taking the helm of the department wouldn’t be easy.  

“I expected it would be a challenge, but I didn't expect interference to this level by anyone in city government. Their job is oversight and budgetary matters, not involvement in day-to-day operations and investigations,” Issman said.

Issman said his next step will be to consult an attorney.

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