Officer’s firing upheld by board|[10/31/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An officer who said he was conducting surveillance will remain fired after a Vicksburg review board apparently believed those who said he was really at his girlfriend’s house during on-duty hours.

The Civil Service Commission voted 3-0 Monday to uphold the termination of Adarryll Dent, a former sergeant on the Vicksburg Police Department.

Chairman Joe Graham, Clyde Harris and Janice Carstafhnur wrote that disciplinary action by the Vicksburg Mayor and Board of Aldermen &#8220was warranted and made in good faith and good cause” and that it &#8220was not for political or religious reasons.”

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Dent said Monday he was reviewing the ruling with attorney Ramel Cotton of Jackson. Rulings may be appealed to the Warren County Circuit Court within 30 days.

City officials voted Sept. 6 to fire Dent. During an Oct. 20 appeal hearing before the review board, Associate City Attorney Walterine Langford balked at Dent’s claims that he was on foot patrol around Bayou Boulevard. Instead, she said, he parked his car at &#8220his girlfriend’s” house several times between January and March and spent one to three hours at a time there.

Six Vicksburg police officers testified for the city, and all said they had either seen Dent’s patrol car parked on Bayou Boulevard or had been told by others his car had been parked at the trailer park. Additionally, they said, Dent was &#8220difficult to reach” by phone and radio while in areas along U.S. 61 South.

Although the witnesses agreed with Cotton that hand-held radios were unreliable in the area, they said they had to call Dent on his cell phone and police radio numerous times before reaching him.

Cotton argued Dent was using &#8220innovative surveillance tactics” after he was instructed to increase patrols around the trailer park, and that’s why he couldn’t be reached at times. Cotton said Dent parked his car on Bayou Boulevard and walked to surveillance points.

The tactics to which Cotton referred included undercover foot patrols in the woods between the trailer park and nearby Shamrock Apartments on Belva Drive. They also included conducting surveillance on roof tops and slithering on the ground using trash bags to minimize noise, Dent testified.

Cotton had also argued that out of nine witnesses who testified for the city, none could say &#8220he was actually in this residence.”

Lt. Bobby Stewart, Dent’s former supervisor, told commissioners he began monitoring radio traffic &#8220more closely” and conducted his own surveillance of Dent when his patrol car was parked on Bayou Boulevard.

Dent claimed he had permission from Stewart to enter the mobile home, where his asthmatic son, now 8, lives with his mother. Stewart agreed, but said Dent was granted permission once to visit the boy and repair his medical device.

Nonetheless, Police Chief Tommy Moffett testified, Dent did not have authorization, as is department policy, to conduct his own personal surveillance around Bayou Boulevard.

Langford also said Dent encouraged desk clerk Tamisha Simms to lie to his wife as to the whereabouts of Moffett.

A digital recording of separate telephone conversations between Dent and Simms showed Dent asked the clerk to tell his wife, if she came to the police department to talk to Moffett about his &#8220pending discipline,” to tell her the chief was unavailable all week.

Cotton asked commissioners not to consider the claim in their deliberations and to overturn his client’s termination.

The commission is charged with keeping politics out of hirings, firings, promotions and transfers in police and fire departments.

If the panel decides any decision was not related to job performance, decisions of city officials may be modified or reversed.