Three Ferriday alderperson who have been at odds with Ferriday Mayor Rydell Turner for the majority of his two years as mayor, voted to overturn the suspension of Ferriday Police Chief Sam King byTurner until further notice for insubordination.
Kenneth Tucker was named interim Ferriday Police Chief by Turner.
Turner and alderman Elijah “Stepper” Banks did not attend the meeting, while alderwomen Gail Pryor was out of town.
Turner did not have any comment Thursday morning, saying he will issue a statement later about the legality of the meeting.
Alderwoman Gloria Lloyd, who stated Turner was the worst mayor Ferriday has seen in two years since she has been on the board, served as Mayor Pro Tempre.
“In two years, we’ve had five police chiefs,” Lloyd said. “We allow people to disrespect Ferriday and the world is mocking us.”
One of those police chiefs, Herman Curry, spoke in favor of King.
Curry resigned in June of last year because of differences with Turner.
“Sam King has the experience, know-how and desire to address the issues here in Ferriday and I think we should allow him to do that,” Curry said.
King, who has continued to show up at his office and perform duties of the police chief, shared a letter with the three board members he received from Turner on September 16.
The friction between the mayor and chief heated up last week after a confrontation between town employee Michael Kelly and Alderman Andre Keys following the Tuesday monthly meeting.
Kelly and Keys were in a verbal confrontation outside Ferriday Hall where the meeting took place.
Turner had left soon after the meeting but came back with his lights flashing and asked King to send everyone away from the building.
King said Turner was upset because aldermen would not agree to amend the town’s budget or pass a resolution for bond money to help purchase the Concordia Bank building once it moves to the former Tensas State Bank building on E.E. Wallace Boulevard.
“I think that was his point of contention, but I am not going to allow him to run roughshod over the police department because he was upset with the board,” King said.
In his letter to King, Turner stated, “As of Sept. 14, you, Chief Sam King, are suspended with pay from your duties as Ferriday Police Chief and all authority over the Ferriday Police Department for gross insubordination until further notice. You have continually refused to follow direct orders from myself, Mayor Turner, and it will no longer be tolerated. You have been given several warnings on your insubordinate behavior and have not corrected your actions. Instead, you have continued to display the same type of disrespect toward this administration. Please turn in your badge, radio, keys and all other equipment that belongs to the FPD.”
According to Turner, King was sent a memo by Ferriday Town Clerk Marchelle about officers not taking their vehicles home. Turner said King folded the note when it was presented to him, tore it up and threw it away.
Turner said in his letter there have been verbal warnings about allowing officers excessive overtime and part-time employees working full-tine hours, and he spoke to King about hiring employees without his knowledge or approval.
“I sent a memo to the police department by the town clerk,” Turner said. “She informed me that after you read the memo you folded the memo in half and threw it in the trash. You said you could not do that. The memo had to be posted for all employees to read it, and you said to her you could do it and did do it. You told her this was not going to happen and that this was your department.When I called you and asked if what she told me was true, you stated to me that you did fold the memo and throw it in the trash can. By doing so, you decided to be insubordinate towards me and my direct order to you.”
The letter also stated, “I gave you a direct order to clear the parking lots at Ferriday Hall and Haney’s Big House due to a disturbance between the aldermen and an employee, and you ignored my direct order and did not do as I said.”
King said Turner’s request was not legal.
“You can’t give me an order that’s not a legal order,” he said. “I’m a police officer. I have to uphold the law. I’m not going to take an order that’s illegal. After the altercation between Michael Kelly and the alderman that situation was done. Mr. Kelly left the scene. The mayor comes back afterward with his blue and red lights flashing in his pickup truck and jumped out like he was the police, telling everyone to get off the property. My concern then was, I told the mayor don’t fall through that trap. You are at Ferriday Hall and Haney’s Big house is a public area on a public street. You have employees on one side and three alderpersons on another. You come up demanding everyone to get off the parking lot. It didn’t look good. You can’t make folks leave when they are not doing anything. According to you, I didn’t follow a direct order. I’m not going to follow an order that is not valid. You can’t expect me to.”
The tension grew more last Thursday following an incident at town hall where Keys was meeting with someone about town business.
Kelly told Keys he was not authorized to be in the building and showed him out.
“It was alleged Mr. Kelly put his hands on Mr. Keys,” King said. “Mr. Keys sought to press charges against Mr. Kelly for the incident which he has a right as a citizen to press charges, exercising that right. There was nothing for us to do but to respond to the complaint, which we did as best we could. We made the proper arrest and will let the court decide what happens from there.”
Kelly was charged with simple battery and public intimidation and retaliation.
“Mr. Kelly bonded out Friday,” King said. “We executed a search warrant on town hall to get the DVR player which recorded the incident, so we have to do as a law enforcement agency should do. And as head of this department, it’s something I am obligated to do as well.”
“The mayor and I have different ideas about allowing police to take their units home,” King said. “Our officers should be able to respond to a call in a timely fashion and having police cars parked in their neighborhoods acts as a crime deterrent.”
King gave the aldermen lists detailing the overtime worked by each officer and what they were working on at those times, which included special events like “Super Sundays” hosted in Ferriday that required extra officers.
“We did appoint extra officers to come and work those details on those particular days because my number one goal is to make sure the citizens of Ferriday are safe,” King said. “We did reduce overtime hours for the Ferriday Police Department. … We’ve got football season that has started and what I’ve done as the police chief to ensure the safety of individuals attending the games, I’ve asked that every police officer at the Ferriday Police Department be on duty in order for us to be at the football game and provide the security that is necessary. Because of that, officers were able to take a gun off of an individual who otherwise would have brought that gun inside the gate.”
Ferriday police arrested Roosevelt Lewis, 18, 504 10th Street, Ferriday, when he tried to get into the Ferriday-Richwood football game on September 2 with a firearm.
“There was a group of boys wanting to get into the game and we found one who had a firearm in his possession,” King said .
Lewis was charged with possession of firearm on school property.
King said if there is a shift with no available officer to cover it, “I myself will go out and cover that shift. … That’s my commitment to the Town of Ferriday. … I don’t feel that this suspension was justified.”
“If any head of a department is suspended, it should come before the board,” Lloyd said.