SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Ben Raymond officially was given the title of Shreveport police chief in September. The official paperwork at the time listed him as probational police chief.
At that time, Shreveport City Council members voted with the caveat that they could review his performance over the next year then revisit whether he should be police chief full time.
After nine months, Raymond is off probational status. And no one on the City Council knew.
City Council Chairman James Flurry said while he isn’t against the move, it did come as a surprise to council members when they found out. Most of them learned about it when KSLA News 12 broke the news Wednesday.
Raymond’s move off probational status was a process that started in April and apparently was kept quiet.
Raymond’s leadership and the city coming off a 45-year low in crime are the reasons Mayor Adrian Perkins says he certified him as permanent police chief.
When Raymond was hired as police chief on a probationary basis in September, Councilman Jerry Bowman Jr. went on record as saying:
“I will support it, mayor. It’s one year? Hopefully, if he does good, we can move forward; if not, there will be outcry.”
And there was outcry, mostly from members of the black community, during that City Council meeting in September. Those in attendance said racism is a problem in the community and the Police Department.
Even in the City Council chambers, you could see the division of law enforcement. There were black officers on one side of the room and white officers on the other side.
Nine months later, Bowman raised concerns when City Council members met virtually last month.
The outcry continues in the black community and among officers, he said.
“We had a discussion about a year ago to address issues in police, and all of it is not about race; but ongoing concerns (are) not resolved,” Bowman said during the meeting last month.
“I do remember we said we would assess at a year,” Councilwoman LeVette Fuller recalled.
She and Bowman believe the mayor was supposed to give them a progress report on the police chief so they could determine whether they would recommend moving forward or going in a different direction. City Council members never got the progress report they were asking for, Bowman said.
On April 15, a month before the virtual City Council meeting, Perkins asked the civil service board to change Raymond’s status from probational to permanent.
Perkins mentioned nothing about his request during virtual council meeting even though he attended the session and heard the concerns.
Perkins said he didn’t think to mention his request at that time. And even though the police chief is certified, the mayor added, he still is accountable.
As for Perkins taking such action seemingly silently, he is authorized to do so.
The mayor said no one on council came to him with concerns about Raymond. In fact, Perkins said, they all applauded him on his first year as police chief.
According to the civil service board, the probationary status can turn permanent right after the 6 months is met and up until 12 months. If no action is taken after 12 months, the position automatically becomes permanent.
It’s also important to note that Perkins could have pulled back his request all the way up until the civil service board voted this week. With the timing of the cases of Tommie McGlothen Jr. and Wavey Austin, two men who died allegedly while in police custody, some City Council members say they would rather the mayor had waited until the external investigation is over.