On Tuesday, April 22, Brusly’s town council agreed to appoint Richie Johnson as the town’s interim police chief, and made the appointment effective April 26, the day after former chief Jamie Whaley officially resigned from the position.
Johnson, a colonel for the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, was the assistant chief of police in Brusly until about four weeks ago, but the council agreed that he would best fill the absent position left by Whaley.
Whaley, on April 17, pleaded guilty to a malfeasance in office charge for using a Brusly fleet credit card between January 2013 and January 2014 to charge $1,120 in fuel costs to fuel his personal vehicle and boat. He was indicted by the WBR grand jury on April 10 on felony theft and malfeasance charges.
The theft charge was dismissed as part of Whaley’s plea bargain agreement.
Brusly Mayor Joey Normand said that he is excited to have Johnson as the town’s police chief and said he believes the police department can accomplish a lot under Johnson’s authority.
“With Richard’s very massive amount of management experience, he’ll be a big asset to the town to get things turned around and headed in the right direction,” Normand said. “I’m very excited about what’s happening right now.”
Johnson said that he decided to accept the position after several community members asked him to consider the position if it were offered to him.
“I was humbled. I realized that all the work I’ve put in for 26 years was going to be put to some use to benefit the local police department directly,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who also works at the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, said that as his position with the WBRSO is to be a liaison between law enforcement as well as the District Attorney’s office, his duties as Brusly Chief of Police will cause no conflict.
“I wear different hats,” he said. “But they’re all related. They’re all connected in one way or another.”
In a written statement to the Brusly Mayor and Council, Johnson explained that he had taken steps to assure there would be no conflict between other positions he currently holds.
“I have spoken to both of my elected bosses, Sheriff Mike Cazes and District Attorney Ricky Ward and they have agreed to allow me whatever time necessary to assist Brusly in this temporary assignment. As a dual employee of the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, I currently manage 300 employees including all fulltime, part-time and volunteer employees at the Sheriff’s Office as well as the Office Manager of 25 employees for the District Attorney’s Office,” Johnson wrote.
Normand said that he understands Johnson still has a job to do with the WBRSO, but is confident that the new chief was a great choice by the council.
“It was a surprise to me how aggressively the council did their due diligence and went after who they thought was the very best person for the job,” Normand said. “We’re very fortunate to have a person with his experience level, and actually living in the city limits of Brusly, and we’re also very thankful to the DAs office and the sheriff’s office for allowing him to come in and take this position.”
Johnson said in the letter to the mayor and council that he was looking forward to working with the Brusly P.D.
“I don’t think we can assume that because of isolated incidents with the Police Chief that we automatically have issues with the current staff. I also believe if the officers are not treated as law enforcement professionals, they will never act like law enforcement professionals. In closing, it is my opinion that the situation now likely requires a band-aid not an organ transplant,” he wrote, adding a list of things he planned to do as chief. “Here is my offer to you and the citizens of the Town of Brusly: an unbiased assessment of law enforcement needs and current capabilities, a temporary leadership role for currently serving officers, total asset accountability for the transition of administrations, immediate credibility and accountability to the citizens.”
Normand said that he was pleased with Johnson’s immediate response to being appointed police chief.
“Just what he’s done since he’s been there has been so noticeable,” Normand said. “He met with his officers and he layed out for them exactly what their job is and what their job isn’t and he told them certain policies that he had and certain things that he wanted to get done.”
Johnson, who officially took over as Brusly’s head of law enforcement on Saturday, said Monday afternoon, that his meeting with the Brusly officers, which took place April 24, went extremely well, and he’s excited about his officers.
“We probably have the best collective group of officers I’ve ever seen in Brusly,” he said. “This group here is a really good, conscientious group. They’re ready to handle their business. We won’t be stalling. We’ll be moving forward full speed ahead.”
Johnson said that his main goal is simply to continue police protection for the town. He said that he began an audit of the police department’s asset, physical, property and vault inventories.
“Today I completed my proposal for a new operating budget. It looks like we’ll be able to cut the budget by about $50,000 from last year,” he said. “Some of that is due to the fact that I’m going to opt out of the retirement and insurance.”
Johnson explained that because he has retirement and insurance benefits with the sheriff’s office, he plans to decline the town’s benefits, allowing Brusly to recoup the money.
Normand said that he is pleased with the work he believes Johnson can help accomplish as chief.
“His plans are to put in as much time as he needs to… to make sure the job gets done,” Normand said, adding that though the position is a full-time position, Johnson doesn’t have a specified amount of hours he must work. “Richard is going to be there as needed. He’s going to be a full-time chief of police in his mind and in his efforts, and I’m just excited about it. I know it’s going to work out.”
Johnson will hold the interim police chief position until a new chief is elected to fulfill Whaley’s unexpired term, which ends in 2016.
The new chief will be elected in the November 4, 2014 election.
According to the La. Secretary of State’s official website, the qualifying period to qualify to run in the election is August 20-22.