COVINGTON, La. - Council members met Tuesday night to confirm the mayor's choice for police chief, former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Lentz.
The decision comes with high expectations from several city leaders to clean up the image of the department, all while it's simmering in yet another controversy.
"I think Tim does have his work cut out for him, but I think he is the right guy to right the ship," Councilman Rick Smith said.
That feeling about Lentz, Covington Mayor Mike Cooper's choice for new police chief, seems shared among most council members. Those members also agree on the issues they'd like Lentz to tackle off the top.
"One of his first commitments is to get community interaction back with the police department, whether it be in the West 30s or what they call the Silk Stocking district, it doesn't matter," Council Chairman Lee Alexius said. "We need the interaction between the police and the citizens."
But the bigger challenge that this new chief will be facing is the controversy he'll walk right into which is of course the arrest of two referees at a weekend football game. It's part of a bigger problem the mayor has had with the department regarding questionable behavior by officers, which led to the firing of the old police chief.
"You're right,” said Smith, “It's unbelievable that we're right in the midst of a high school football referee scandal type deal. That's something that we need to overcome."
Several other excessive force situations have plagued the department in recent years, including two officers arrested for simple battery and malfeasance in office in May. That's a reputation city leaders are hoping Lentz can shed.
"We've received quite a bit of complaints, again, with the interaction with people. How they were handled with the police department, how they were talked to by the police department, so again, that relationship needs to be there, needs to get there," said Alexius.
And many are hopeful that it will.
Tim Lentz declined comment for this story until after tonight's meeting.
The Covington Police Department tells Eyewitness News it has collected video evidence and witness statements in the referee case supporting the officer's story, and they are continuing the investigation.