COVINGTON, La. -- The mayor of Covington hinted last month that the police chief’s job may be in jeopardy following yet another excessive force investigation in the police department. Friday, Richard Palmisano was officially fired.
"Just as I am accountable to the citizens of Covington,” said Mayor Mike Cooper, “Chief Palmisano is accountable to me and the city as far as how his department is run and their behaviors and actions."
Cooper is referring to several instances of excessive force recently investigated within the police department under Palmisano. Those incidents include a situation from February 2011 that’s still pending in the courts, as well as an incident in the Summer of 2011, which led to Palmisano being placed on administrative leave. The most recent incident was in March when a current officer and former officer were arrested for allegedly hitting a shoplifting suspect, who was in handcuffs.
Attemps to talk to Palmisano at home and by phone were unsuccessful, but his attorney says they say this coming and it’s far from over.
The firing seems to have been brewing even before Cooper became mayor in 2011. Between when he was elected and actually took office, Palmisano was told Cooper wanted him out of the position by the time he took office. It’s unclear whether that was by request to resign or by termination. But an Attorney General's opinion, sought by the outgoing mayor, said the chief could not be fired without evidence of disciplinary problems, so Palmisano stayed in place, until now.
"I have given the police department and Chief Palmisano full support in running the department and making the changes and bringing a positive image to our police department and our city,” said Cooper, “But at this point, we are in a position where that has not happened."
Palmisano’s attorney, Eric Hessler says the former chief will be appealing the termination. Hessler said in a letter to the Civil Service Commission, “This termination was without just cause, and was arbitrary and capricious. The discipline was not commensurate with the facts and circumstances presented, and the process employed in this matter violated Chief Palmisano’s due process rights and other rights afforded to him under state law.”
A long-time captain with the department will be in charge in the interim. The mayor says the process of finding a replacement will not be immediate.