After lengthy discussion, the Brusly Town Council voted Monday night to terminate the employment of well-known Brusly policeman and school resource officer, Gil Banta.
In a 4-1 vote, with only councilman Shane Andre voting against the recommendation, the council agreed to fire Banta – after explaining that it was not personal – based on his lack of basic and firearms Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) certifications.
Interim Police Chief Richie Johnson said that Banta’s lack of POST certifications creates an issue, not only with the POST Council, but also with the town’s insurance carrier.
Johnson read aloud a letter addressed to Banta, in which Johnson outlined the issues of Banta’s employment with the town.
“In your position as school resource officer, you’re required to be both basic POST certified and firearms POST certified to carry a weapon,” the letter read, continuing on to say that Banta was not grandfathered in under Louisiana law regarding the requirements of POST certification. “Last week, risk management put us on notice, by letter, that you are not covered under our liability policy should any incident rise out of your use of a firearm.
“While this situation is very difficult, I simply cannot allow you to continue in your present position, as you are not qualified to do so under Louisiana law,” Johnson read. “Therefore I have no other alternative than to recommend your termination from employment.”
Councilman Scot Rhodes said, during the meeting, that he thought it was unfortunate to have to terminate Banta, but said that he simply didn’t “see any way around it.”
“I think we’ve exhausted our means,” Rhodes said.
Banta, however, said that his firing was a complete surprise to him and that once he learned that he needed to get POST certified and was not grandfathered in by state law, as he has assumed, he petitioned the POST Council.
“Upon my hiring in 2008, no POST requirements were brought to my attention, nor did the council address or question such issues. I’ve been doing this job for five years with no complaints, until Interim Chief Johnson takes office,” Banta said. “Interim Chief Johnson’s position is temporary – however, my termination as School Resource Officer is permanent.”
Banta said that he is disappointed and saddened at how his future with the department had been handled up to that point and under such circumstances.
He added that since 2008, he felt that he had proven himself in various capacities with the Brusly P.D., as well as in Brusly High and Middle schools as the resource officer.
“I’m asking the council to recognize that I have provided value to the Brusly Police Department, and could continue to do such. If not only until my appeal process has been reviewed and decided upon by post council that I respectfully submitted,” he requested before the council’s vote. “I was led to believe I was grandfathered in … because of my tenure in law enforcement. In hindsight, should I have been more proactive? Yes, absolutely.”
After a discussion and questions to Banta from the council and mayor, Rhodes said that he thought the issue about the school resource officer was “black and white.”
“The School Resource officer has to be POST certified. Gil is not POST certified.
Bottom line is, we have someone who is not post certified serving in that position,” Rhodes said. “That needs to change.”
Johnson explained that upon being hired, a full-time police officer in the state of Louisiana has 18 months to get their POST certifications.
He said, however, that the POST certifications oversight was not completely Banta’s fault, though he was the one receiving the punishment of being fired.
“This is a mismanagement issue. This happened when Gil was hired. Was it Jamie (Whaley’s) fault? The former chief, my friend. Yes,” said Johnson. “This is not a Gil issue. I cannot be part of mismanagement and create a special position for anybody – and I will not be part of that. I was dealt this hand.”
Before the council voted, council member Joanne Bourgeois spoke to Banta, saying that the decision was a difficult one to make, but that it was about business.
“I just want to say, this is not about you personally. We have to take a solemn oath that we will uphold the laws of the United States of America, of the state of Louisiana, and the town of Brusly – and POST is one of the laws,” she said. “This is not about you as a person. We’ve had to make some tough decisions.”
Banta asked about the possibility of creating a position that he might be able to hold within the police department until his appeal process was complete, but the council, as well as interim chief, denied the possibility.
“I came in here with the understanding that I would bring some transparency to the police department, some credibility to the department, and not follow what was going on before,” Johnson said. “And to create a position would be following what was going on before, in my opinion.”
The council voted 4-1 in favor of Johnson’s recommendation to terminate Banta’s employment.
In other news, the council declared 17 Brusly P.D. pistols as surplus to allow Interim Chief Johnson to use them in an exchange program with the Glock firearm company.
Johnson said that Glock’s exchange program will allow the department to exchange the 17 Glock pistols (which have three separate model numbers) for brand new, fourth generation, pistols.
During the meeting, Johnson expressed the importance of each officer carrying the same model weapon, adding that the exchange program would afford them the opportunity to get each officer a town-issued weapon.
The program essentially allows the town to purchase the new weapons from the Glock firearm company for only $100 each after exchanging the current weapons.