Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — Mayor Kip Holden chose not to stick around after the hearing in which he fired Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White. If he had, he would have heard lots of comments that opposed his decision.
"I thought it was important the public had an opportunity to speak," said Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle.
After White's hearing ended, Metro Council members Donna Collins-Lewis, Ronnie Edwards, Tara Wicker, and Marcelle hosted a town hall in the council chambers. Dozens of people stayed to share their opinions of White, the mayor, the police department, and the future of the position of chief.
The majority voiced their support for White, particularly the way he engaged with the black community.
"The chief has done an excellent job in beginning and forging a relationship between the community and the police department once again," said Sadie Roberts-Joseph.
Supporters said White took an interest of lives of victims and their families, and tried to close racial divides. Some said their preference was to bring him back, but since that is unlikely, they want his replacement to share his values.
"I think if we find the right leader," said Arthur Reed, "and not just a leader that's gonna listen at the powers that be, that goes in and demands change, then we'll see a better police department."
"Somebody that is not biased," agreed Alexis Smith, "that is not basing things on ethnicity or sex or anything like that, because that's the only way that we're gonna collectively bring our community together."
A few people, though, applauded the Mayor's call. White may have made friends within the black community, but his critics claim he failed to protect and serve the people who worked for him.
"My wife has been a subject to racial discrimination and retaliation to (the Family and Medical Leave Act)," said Lance Jones.
"We need somebody that, a competent police chief, that will definitely make this city better and treat the employees fair, and not hurt people that are pregnant, not try to divide people based on race."
The one thing everyone could agree on is that White's firing needs to be a signal for change, believing the next chief of police has an opportunity to accomplish great things.
"I think that it's a dark (day)," Reed stated, "but I also think that it's the best day that Baton Rouge has ever seen."
The forum was taped, and the council members said they planned to send a copy to White. He may find comfort in many of the speakers' flattering words, but none of their comments will give him what he wants most: his job.