Vidalia police officer disciplined

Published 8:47 pm Friday, July 24, 2020

VIDALIA — A Vidalia Police officer received a three-day suspension and is required to complete a series of training courses after aldermen voted for the measure on the recommendation of the police chief.

The action came during a July 17 special-called meeting of the Vidalia Mayor and Board of Aldermen do discuss personnel matters in the Vidalia Police Department and to take up the disciplinary recommendations of Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill.

The meeting was called after a complaint had been filed July 11 in Seventh Judicial District Court in Concordia Parish, seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

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The suit alleges that two Vidalia police officers kicked a disabled man on his legs, slammed his impaired limb in an SUV door and dragged him across a seat by the neck via a shirt collar while arresting him on May17.

The complaint names the City of Vidalia, Police Chief Joey Merrill and Vidalia police officers Robert “TJ” Cross and Josh Brewer, individually.

The July 17 disciplinary action by the Vidalia Mayor and Board of Aldermen came after the board went into executive session to discuss the issue concerning Cross with Merrill and another incident involving a dispatcher in the Vidalia Police Department.

In regard to Cross, a motion by Alderman Tron McCoy and seconded by Alderman Jon Betts passed to accept Merrill’s recommendation for disciplinary action as follows: a three-day suspension without pay; successful completion of a cultural diversity program; successful completion of a de-escalation training program; and successful completion of a rules of force training program.

The motion passed 3-2 with Alderman Sabrina Doré voting no, she said, because she believed the “suspension should be more than three days.” Alderman Robert Gardner also voted no.

In the undisclosed matter involving an unnamed dispatcher, the board voted 4-0 with McCoy abstaining to follow Merrill’s recommendation for a written reprimand to become part of her personnel file.

No action was taken in regard to Brewer.