Internal investigations launched into Covington officers in referee arrests

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 7:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 3 at 7:22 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

COVINGTON, La. - Eyewitness News has learned the Covington Police Department has two active internal investigations into the controversy surrounding the arrests of two high school football referees in October.

Eyewitness News obtained a ‘Notice of Investigation’ issued to Covington Police Lt. Stephen Short on Oct. 25. It informs Short that he is under an administrative internal affairs investigation regarding his arrest of two high school football referees two weeks prior.

The incident, which is said to have occurred following an altercation between Short and the referees over crowd control on the sidelines, sparked a controversy in the community. The charges against the referees were dropped the next week.

New Covington Police Department Chief Tim Lentz said this about the situation that day: "There was a law enforcement action that probably needed to take place, it wasn't an arrest."

But as the internal investigation into Short's actions went on, another ‘Notice of Investigation’ went to Capt. Jack West, who was the interim chief of the department at the time of the incident, and present during the incident.

The letter reads, “While conducting the investigation into this matter, it has been revealed by witnesses that a ‘heated’ discussion took place between Capt. West and Lt. Short. West took no action against Lt. Short, nor did he intervene in the arrests of the two referees."

Lentz said he can't give a status on these investigations because they are pending, but we do know, based on civil service timelines, that the Short investigation has to be complete by Christmas Day.

Lentz said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "I want the public to know that we take these issues very seriously. We want to bring this to a quick resolution but because of civil service guidelines, it has taken longer than I would personally prefer."

West's attorney, Eric Hessler, told Eyewitness News in a statement, “We're not exactly sure the specifics of what's being alleged, but we're confident any competent investigation will show Capt. West acted accordingly with the law and the policies of the Covington Police Department at all times."

Michael Fawer, Short's attorney, said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "He did absolutely nothing wrong and took the appropriate steps under the circumstances. The referees threatened to remove him and he was there as an officer doing his duty. The situation got out of control and he felt compelled to make the arrests. Their job is to run the game, not control the crowd."

People we talked to say they support the move to investigate.

"I don't think they should lose their jobs or anything, but I think they should be disciplined and made aware that should not happen," said resident Paulette Claros.

"That's what we want to see done is the truth come out and the right thing be done," said Peter Basirico.

The chief can request more time for either investigation from the Civil Service Board. An investigation does not guarantee a discipline.

 

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