The members of the Port Allen City Council voted to uphold one disciplinary action against police officer Eric Reineke but threw out a second in an open hearing.
Reineke had been suspended for two days for allegedly losing his temper with a driver after an accident on the Intracoastal Canal Bridge and received another disciplinary action for getting into his second accident within 12 months, costing him the right to bring his unit home for 30 days.
After hearing from Police Chief Esdron Brown, Lt. Kendra Wisham, the head of the department’s Internal Affairs Division, Reineke and his attorney, Tommy Dewey, the council voted 4-1 to affirm the disciplinary action taken in the lost temper incident and unanimously rescinded the discipline of Reineke in the other.
The motion for rescinding the “lost command of temper” suspension, the Police Department’s terminology for the first of Reineke’s disciplinary misconduct accusations, was made by Councilman Brandon Brown and seconded by Councilperson Ray Helen Lawrence, then passed 4-1.
Councilman Gary Hubble provided the sole nay vote.
“I think we hold (police officers) up to something they can’t attain,” he said. Hubble continued to explain his stance by saying after listening to the witnesses, or “five different voices,” he didn’t know which one was right.
The Rev. Warren LeJeune Jr., the man who had claimed Reineke had lost his temper after a multi-vehicle accident, explained the incident to the council in his own words.
He said he had been stuck in traffic behind the accident when one officer told him to proceed and when he did, was subjected to “yelling and screaming, ranting and raving” by Reineke, the second officer on the scene.
“If he treats a pastor and a person who gives all he can to the community, I can’t imagine how he would treat just anyone,” LeJeune said.
Dewey said his client’s actions that day had been misinterpreted and no offense had been committed and blamed the misunderstanding on “a breakdown of communication” by the officers on the bridge working the accident.
He explained LeJeune’s take on the incident. “Mr. LeJeune wasn’t lying,” Dewey said. “That was his perception.”
In the discussion on the second action taken against Reineke, Brown said he had been involved in two automobile accidents in his unit over 12 months and had been reprimanded with the loss of the right to take his unit home for 30 days.
Wisham said the first wreck occurred when Reineke reportedly ran into the back of a vehicle at the intersection of Court Street and La. 415.
The second accident happened while Reineke was responding to a call for assistance in the pursuit of a suspect from officers with the Narcotics Division, Wisham said.
She said at the time, Reineke placed the fault for the accident on bad tires, continuing by telling members of the council he had requested new tires and they had been delivered to the department prior to the wreck.
“He was told that the tires were at the maintenance shop and he failed to take the unit to the shop,” Wisham said, but he did not get the tires mounted on his unit prior to the accident.
Citing Louisiana law, Dewey said the disciplinary action should be overturned based on the delay of the department in opening the complaint, completing its investigation and doling out the suspension.
“No action can be taken…because it does not comply with the police officer’s bill of rights,” according to Dewey, because over 60 days had elapsed between the time of the action and its accompanying discipline.