Police accused of favoritism during Baldwin meeting
Complaints regarding Baldwin police again dominated the board of aldermen meeting Thursday.
Demetriese Valier spoke on behalf of her father, Ronald Valier, saying the police department “is using retaliatory and threatening tactics to intimidate me and and my family so that we do not speak out against them.”
The elder Valier had allegedly been shot during an incident in August 2013 by Robert Hatcherson Jr.
Demetriese Valier said Hatcherson filed charges against her father including defamation of character, stalking and harassment. She said she was arrested for refusing to give police information about her father’s location. She said Baldwin police acted with “favoritism” on the part of the Hatcherson family. A member of the family in the audience denied this.
Valier said the families have had “tensions between them for the past decade or so, but have nothing to do with the reason I am here. I want to know what we have to do to get fair and equal treatment under the law.”
Valier then requested that a referendum be placed on the ballot changing Baldwin’s police chief status from elected to appointed.
She accused Baldwin police of intimidation. “They said he was dirtying his nose, a euphemism for using cocaine,” Valier said. “My arrest was totally retaliatory… I was told I was free to go by one officer, then Officer Joe Brent said to arrest me also. There was no legal basis to arrest me.”
Valier said the people of Baldwin need to “stand up and take back control of your town. They are called public servants for a reason…where is your backbone?”
Alderman Clarence Vappie pointed out that voters defeated a move to change the police chief’s job from elected to appointed several years ago. “The people spoke,” he said. A proposition can be put on the ballot again.
As an elected position, the mayor and board of alderman have no authority over the police department or the chief.
Police Officer Sharandae Brannon said she has undergone extensive training to be a law officer and “do everything according to the law… I’m not going to let Ronald Valier and his allegations about Baldwin police demean me.”
Robert Hatcherson Sr. said his family had been in disputes with the Valier family prior to the shooting as well.
Some residents complained about multiple occasions of gunfire in the town recently.
Marva Richard told the board that her grandson had been shot recently, and one officer responded while “three or four police” were tending to a report of a stolen cellphone.
Police made no effort to clear a crowd on the corner that night, Richard alleged.
“We are having a lot of shooting in Baldwin,” Alderwoman Margaret Coleman said. “We can’t blame the chief for all of this… it’s other residents coming into Baldwin and shooting. As community leaders and residents we should take charge. When I see a problem I call the police. It doesn’t mean something is about to happen, but I’m going to call. We have to protect our community.”
She said there were three shootings in the town within the week. “That’s too many,” she said.
Baldwin police have issued no news releases to the Banner-Tribune regarding shootings within that time span.
Officer John Dunning took the podium and said “for a police department to work, a community has to work for the police department.”
A Marine veteran, Dunning said he fills his patrol car’s fuel tank every night. “You can’t say I’m not on the road,” he said. He said that he hears people speak of police harassing citizens. “If I see you speeding I’m going to pull you over. That’s how we catch people with guns. That’s how we catch people with drugs… I have two little girls at home, and leave home every night, kiss my girls, kiss my wife, and I come out here and worry about getting shot for $9 an hour.”
Dunning said it is “not my intention to be racist or pull you over to harass you. I don’t want guns on the street… I don’t care what color you are, what your name is, what seat you hold in the town. There’s a (law) codebook for Louisiana. I can guarantee you my whole lousy paycheck that nobody’s name is in that book that says you’re exempt from that law.”
He said walking up to a car with tinted windows at night requires a firm attitude and extreme caution. Dunning said he has no quota on writing tickets but if it is necessary to uphold the law he’ll do it.
“If I have to come to work and justify to (everyone) why I pulled you over, I can’t do my job,” he said.