Seven of the eight Pine Bluff City Council members expressed differing opinions Thursday on Police Chief’s Brenda Davis-Jones’ part-time job as “courtesy officer” at the Fountain Square Apartments at 3201 W. Beech St., where she resides. Davis-Jones, who earns more than $80,000 annually in her full-time role as chief, is providing some security services at the complex in exchange for free rent, The Commercial reported in Thursday’s edition.
“I don’t think we need a chief of police moonlighting,” said Alderman Wayne Easterly. “I actually don’t know how we can have a police chief who has time for a second job. I’m not sure a police chief is ever truly off-duty. My concern in this situation is when does Brenda Davis-Jones stop being police chief and start being the Fountain Square courtesy officer?”
Alderman Bill Brumett said he fears the council may actually have no voice in the matter.
“I’m surprised that Mayor (Carl A.) Redus (Jr.) would approve Chief Davis-Jones accepting additional duties at the apartments,” he said. “But the mayor is apparently the only individual who can do anything in this situation. He has full authority over the chief. The council can say that we don’t like it, but we don’t have any authority. But I do think we’re looking at a liability issue.”
“If a problem involving the chief occurs at the apartments while she’s handling her courtesy officer duties there, she’ll still be acting as police chief because she’s got her police department business card and office and city-issued cell phone numbers listed as contact information with the residents,” Easterly said. “She is clearly identifying herself as police chief and using city-owned property, a city phone, a city vehicle and her city title. If she has trouble at the apartments, there could certainly be a liability problem for the city.”
Redus said Wednesday night that he’s aware of and sees nothing unlawful or improper with Davis-Jones’ arrangement as the complex’s “security.”
“There’s no monetary exchange involved,” said the mayor. “She’s just providing some security for her rent. There’s nothing in the city policy that would disallow this.”
He added that since there’s no policy violation, there’s no need for dialogue with the council, although several council members said Redus should have at least advised them of the matter before Davis-Jones began working in her part-time post.
Alderman Glen Brown defended Davis-Jones and accused The Commercial of trying to increase its circulation at the chief’s expense.
“I’m really trying to figure out if all of this is newsworthy,” said Brown. “I’m just angry that everything she does is highlighted in the paper. I think the paper makes too much of her activities, but I understand that the paper wants to sell more papers.”
Brown said Davis-Jones had already been providing some security services at Fountain Square “and the management there just made an official arrangement for it.” He sees no illegalities with the chief’s part-time role, although he intends to “look into it and make sure everything’s all right.”
“It’s too early for me to make a statement,” said Alderman George Stepps. “Before I say anything, I want to review the city’s policies and regulations.”
Alderman Steven Mays figures the chief has a “right to work part-time jobs like other police officers,” but he wants to “talk with the mayor and chief to make sure there aren’t any problems.”
Alderman Charles Boyd also wants to look into the matter before formulating a firm opinion, but meanwhile admitted that he’s “surprised” that Davis-Jones “would do something like this.”
“I’ve been too busy and haven’t had time to look into this,” said Alderwoman Irene Holcomb. “I don’t have enough knowledge of the situation to speak about it right now, but I do want to determine if there are some policies related to this sort of thing that I wasn’t aware of. I like to know what I’m talking about before I make a comment.”
Alderwoman Thelma Walker did not return repeated telephone calls.