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November 18, 2017

LPD on the paperwork hotseat


Members of the Luther Police Department likely are tracking down some of their certification paperwork to show their boss, The Town Board of Trustees. The board called a Special Meeting Tuesday night to discuss the employment of each member of the five officer force.

The surprise meeting, announced at the close of business on Friday, caused Town watchers to wonder what was going on. After a lot of asking around and reading the law (Oklahoma Statute Title 70), it seems it might be just a paperwork check-up, although the official wording on those agendas can look dire.

From the meeting agenda:

I. Vote to enter in to Executive Session
i. Discussion of the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, resignation or termination of Michael Class;
ii. Discussion of the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, resignation or termination of Michael Oliver;
iii. Discussion of the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, resignation or termination of Justin Blackwell;
iv. Discussion of the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, resignation or termination of Anthony Butler;
v. Discussion of the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, resignation or termination of Tony Walker.

Following the appointment of Deputy Chief Mike Class to interim chief last week, which followed the resignation the previous week of former Chief Marcus Thurman, the Town was required to notify the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training of the changes. CLEET is the state agency responsible for ensuring police and peace officers are certified following extensive training, evaluation and yearly continuing education.

From the statute:

H. 1. A law enforcement agency employing police or peace officers in this state shall report the hiring, resignation, or termination for any reason of a police or peace officer to the Council within ten (10) days. Failure to comply with the provisions of this subsection may disqualify a law enforcement agency from participating in training programs sponsored by the Council. Every law enforcement agency employing police or peace officers in this state shall submit to CLEET on or before October 1 of each calendar year a complete list of all commissioned employees with a current mailing address and phone number for each such employee.

While notifying CLEET of the change in chiefs, it seems the Town Board deemed it necessary to ensure all paperwork is updated for the remaining five officers on the force. Trustees are the employers of all town employees, including police officers. Trustee Paxton Cavin is the police department liaison to the board.

“The Board of Trustees simply wants to have the opportunity to do our due diligence in making sure each officer’s personnel files contain all required documents, and by having executive session the board as a whole will be able to speak to each officer individually to ensure that those files are accounted for, and, if there are files missing, a solution can be resolved in an efficient and transparent manner,” said Trustee Cavin.

The officer’s paperwork would have originated with CLEET,  located in Ada, and followed each officer to their employment as police officers. CLEET allows an employer, in this case the Town of Luther, to obtain certain records.

G. 1. The Council is hereby authorized to provide to any employing agency the following information regarding a person who is or has applied for employment as a police or peace officer of such employing agency:

a.Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation reports,

b.administration of the psychological tests provided for herein,

c.performance in the course of study or other basis of certification,

d.previous certifications issued, and

e.any administrative or judicial determination denying certification.

Since the new Town trustees took office in May, they have been in a whirlwind updating and streamlining procedures. A new employee handbook spells out rules of lunch breaks, comp time, travel and other issues. Trustees are expected to adopt a new social media policy at next week’s regular meeting. The board has applied for water grants, raised water rates and has even revamped the town’s website. They submitted a town budget on schedule but have been beset by thousands of dollars in lingering bills they didn’t know existed, according to statements made during meetings. The trustees have also moved quickly on beautification issues such as establishing a Parks Commission and moving toward demolition of dilapidated structures.

The board’s demonstrated pace and meticulousness should indicate why this police issue is getting “front-burner” action.

We will find out Tuesday night. After the executive session and when back in open session, the board will vote on “action regarding the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, resignation or termination of each officer.

Until then officers will gather their CLEET paperwork, while doing their job to “provide a safe environment” and “keep the peace” in Luther.

The board is accepting resumes at Town Hall for the position of Chief of Police.

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