Ferriday police chief files suit, requests restraining order against mayor

Published 1:00 am Friday, November 24, 2017


FERRIDAY — Ferriday Police Chief Arthur Lewis has filed a lawsuit seeking damages and requesting a restraining order against his boss Ferriday Mayor Sherrie Jacobs saying she interfered with his ability to carry out duties at the police department.

The restraining order request follows a series of accusations from each party, ranging from disrespect and malice to disobeying direct orders and breaking Louisiana law.

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The restraining order would block Jacobs from attending any police department meetings and preclude her from interfering with any occupational duties of the police chief or supervision of police officers.

The petition also asks for “all general and equitable relief” to which he is entitled.

Lewis said he did not wish to comment on the lawsuit.

Jacobs’ only comments in regards to the order were that she only learned of the civil suit when the public notice filed in a parish newspaper.

“I have been meeting and communicating with Chief Lewis for a few months now,” Jacobs wrote in an email.  “We were searching for common ground. I thought we were on the road, but sadly now I see we are not.”

Lewis’ petition for damages includes allegations that Jacobs has made it impossible for him to serve as the Ferriday police chief by micromanaging the police department, firing and hiring police officers without the consent of the chief and by suspending Lewis for a total of 90 days without pay and without following provisions laid out in the Louisiana Rights of Law Enforcement Officers While Under Investigation statute.

The law, often referred to as the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, insists that the officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation when it begins, that any interrogation pertaining to the investigation must be recorded, and that the officer in question has a right to counsel.

Lewis’ petition alleges Jacobs complied with none of those statutes.

Lewis was first suspended on Dec. 5, 2016, after two of three officers Jacobs wished to discharge continued to work.

A letter sent from the mayor’s office on that date reflects that Jacobs asked Lewis to deliver three termination letters on Oct. 4, 2016. Jacobs wrote that Lewis returned two of the letters, claiming that the officers refused to accept them.

“This is only one example of your disrespect for me and the office I hold,” Jacobs wrote. “We have had numerous meetings about your lack of leadership in the department and your continued disrespect for me. Beginning today (Dec. 5, 2016) you are suspended without pay for 30 days.”

One of the officer who Jacobs had attempted to fire wrote a letter back to the mayor’s office on Dec. 5 saying he was advised by Alderman Johnnie Brown Sr. not to accept the termination letters because the dismissal had not been approved by the board of aldermen.

“When he (Lewis) attempted to run the department you bucked him at every turn,” the officer wrote. “So if there has been a lack of leadership it would be at your hand not the Chief’s.”

In the time Lewis was suspended, Jacobs requested a consultant from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office to form a plan of action for the police department.

On the day Lewis returned to work, Jacobs sent him a letter with 14 bullet points of new policies which he was advised not to change.

Among the bullet points was the complete dissolution of rank within the police department, the elimination of the assistant chief position, several position changes, the provision that “Any department meeting must be cleared with the Mayor who plans to attend,” and that Lewis was not allowed to hire, fire or suspend any officers at the police department.

“There will be NO changes to this plan … nothing added or subtracted,” Jacobs wrote. “Make NO changes.”

At the conclusion of the letter, in which the mayor called police officers “my officers,” Jacobs left a warning.

“IF THERE ARE ANY CHANGES TO THE PLAN THAT HAS BEEN PUT IN PLACE AT THE PD, THIS WILL BE GROUNDS FOR A 30 DAY SUSPENSION WITHOUT PAY,” Jacobs wrote, in all capital letters, seemingly to emphasize her point.

Jacobs suspended Lewis twice more, once on Feb. 14, 2017, citing that he had “instigated an argument between two of my police officers which could have easily resulted in bodily harm or death,” and on March 14, 2017, for holding a department meeting without the approval of the mayor.

Jacob’s actions, Lewis’ petition states, have interfered

As of yet, Jacobs said she has not been served with a restraining order.