The discussion that led to the decision to cut the department was brought up under new business. This decision was made according to the council due to the lack of funds for the police department. This is not a new problem.
The 2009 budget for the Roseland Police Department had to be amended for expenditures. The original budget was $99,000 and was amended to $135,000, that's a $36,000 increase. Overtures were displayed as $17,500 over in salaries-deputies; $2,900 over in payroll taxes; $2,000 over in automobile expenses; $2,500 over in automobile fuel; $5,000 over in supplies; $700 over in other and $14,000 in grant expenditures.
The 2010 budget for the police department was set at $92,000 for the year ending December 31, 2010, and the council has declared that, "the money is just not there." In light of this, the council has had no choice but to cut the budget in order for the department to make it through the end of the year. Regrettably, in order to cut budget, the council made the decision to advise Chief Hammons to have only himself and one part-time police officer. The council agreed that Hammons would have to choose which officer would be part-time and have this implemented by Monday, October 18. Hammons was not present at the meeting and was not reachable for comment.
However, according to the Lawrason Act,
The chief is ex officio a constable. He has general responsibility for law enforcement in the municipality and is charged with the enforcement of all ordinances within the municipality and all applicable state laws. He is to perform all other duties required of him by ordinance.
(R.S. 33:423) The chief of police may be tax collector or assessor, if the board so decides. (R.S. 33:381(B))
[The authority of the chief as the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality, within the municipal limits and as to all offenses, may not be superseded or limited by the sheriff. (AGO 97-484) The sheriff and the chief of police within a municipality share concurrent jurisdiction.
An elected chief is to make recommendations to the mayor and board for appointment of police personnel, for the promotion of officers, to effect disciplinary action, and for dismissal of police personnel. The nominations or recommendations are to be made regardless of race, color, disability, or creed. (R.S. 33:423)
[The board cannot grant a raise to a police officer without first giving notice to the elected chief of police as law requires that the chief make a recommendation. (AGO 05-250) Once a recommendation is made by the chief, the board may take its own action. Grant v. Grace, 870 So. 2d 1011 (La. 2004) A decision by an elected chief that “no disciplinary or corrective action ... is justified or warranted” against an officer is a recommendation. (AGO 04-0271) Reserve or auxiliary officers, whether compensated or note, are considered "police personnel" and must be approved by the board of aldermen. Once approved, they may not be compensated without approval of the governing authority. AGO 02-0360)]
[An elected chief is without authority to unilaterally promote an officer. (AGO 04-0141) The mayor and board lack authority to unilaterally terminate a police employee without recommendation of the elected chief. Thibodeaux v. Hernandez, App. 3 Cir. 1997, 702 So. 2d 1157. Discipline of a police officer with an appointed chief is by the mayor. (AGO 96-259)]
It has not been determined from a legal standpoint whether the mayor and council (elected officials) as a governing body has the authority to tell the chief of police (also an elected official) how to handle the situation at hand.
The Mayor and Council of the Town of Roseland met every second Thursday of the month. It is an open meeting and the public is invited and encouraged to attend.