BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — A Mississippi Gulf Coast town is looking for its fifth police chief in the last year after the mayor fired the department’s interim leader.
Local media report that Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre fired Matt Issman less than two weeks after Issman took charge.
Issman told reporters Tuesday that Favre was interfering in an investigation of a traffic stop last week that resulted in an officer chasing a woman and her child and ultimately firing his gun.
The outgoing chief said Favre tried to take over the inquiry into the incident, in which no one was injured.
“The mayor assigned an investigator to report directly to him and only to him,” Issman told the Sun Herald .
Issman turned the inquiry over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
Issman said Favre’s choice had a conflict of interest, but said the mayor “wasn’t appreciative” when Issman pointed the problem out.
On Tuesday, Favre said in a statement that said Issman was removed because of lack of communication after he questioned the investigative process under Issman’s command.
“Mr. Issman’s indication that his separation stems from a “disagreement” is correct. I disagree with not following our own policies, not conducting a thorough investigation in accordance with acceptable police standards and not openly communicating with your superiors and our government authorities. Very simply put, in order to be a leader within the City of Bay Saint Louis, I expect you to do your job and do it correctly,” Farvre said.
The previous police chief, Darren Freeman, resigned Sept. 12 amid concerns over video of a May drug arrest. The city refuses to release the video, citing an investigation.
Interim chief Wes Mayley preceded Freeman. He took the post after Chief Mike De Nardo killed himself in September 2016. De Nardo had been suspended moments earlier, amid an investigation for payroll fraud and illegally selling city guns, when he shot himself in the chest in a police station parking lot.
Issman said he may pursue legal action over his firing.
“I expected it would be a challenge, but I didn’t expect interference to this level by anyone in city government,” Issman told WLOX-TV . “Their job is oversight and budgetary matters, not involvement in day-to-day operations and investigations.”
In a message to police department personnel announcing Issman’s removal, Favre said Lt. Push Phillips will manage the day-to-day operations of the police department and will report directly to the mayor.
Favre said he intends to discuss the personnel matter further with the City Council at its Oct. 3 meeting.