While Bibb County school system leaders have not said why they ultimately decided not to offer Brenda Davis-Jones the job of campus police chief, documents show that at least one administrator alerted another staff member of potential issues four days after the school board approved hiring the candidate.
Board members approved hiring Brenda Davis-Jones, who is now serving as police chief in Pine Bluff, Ark., at their July 19 board meeting. Davis-Jones previously worked with both the city of Macon and Fort Valley State University police departments before moving to Arkansas.
However, in an e-mail to school board members Friday afternoon, school Superintendent Romain Dallemand said that “as a result of issues that have surfaced over the past week,” he had decided not to offer Jones a contract as police chief.
Davis-Jones took the job in Pine Bluff in 2010 amid controversy about the firing of the former chief and a resulting lawsuit against the city.
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She has had her own share of controversy since taking over. In the spring, a group representing Pine Bluff police officers expressed no confidence in Davis-Jones, saying she enforced discipline inconsistently and could not follow procedures consistently, according to The Commercial, the area’s local newspaper. Pine Bluff’s City Council also previously considered adopting resolutions expressing no confidence, though those were never passed.
The Telegraph did not receive answers to questions related to hiring Davis-Jones posed Monday to schools spokesman Donald Porter, human resources director Myra Abrams or Dallemand. Calls to Davis-Jones and other Pine Bluff Police staff also were not returned.
On July 23, four days after the Bibb County school board approved hiring Davis-Jones, Donna Simmons, administrative assistant for school operations, e-mailed Abrams a copy of a February news story by Little Rock, Ark., Fox television affiliate Fox 16, according to documents obtained by The Telegraph through an open records request. Former Assistant Police Chief Ivan Whitfield told the TV station that Davis-Jones fired him Feb. 10. Whitfield was on paid leave after detectives found a department-issued gun at a crime scene, according to the story. Whitfield’s attorney said his client’s termination was a retaliatory move, after Whitfield would not tell her which officer saw her boyfriend driving Davis-Jones’ car.
The documents also include other news stories about other issues involving Davis-Jones in Arkansas, but they do not appear to be part of the e-mail to Abrams.
Those include a March story by an Arkansas TV station that reported Davis-Jones was accused of hiring convicted felons on the police force and disciplining police officers who participated in a vote of no-confidence by a chapter of a police advocacy group. The documents also include a July 28 story in The (Pine Bluff) Commercial, where Davis-Jones said via a statement that she “has not been offered or accepted employment with the Bibb County Public School System.”
The documents also show Davis-Jones met with an interview team on July 16, made up of chief financial officer Ron Collier, personnel review officer Ed Aaron, campus police Sgt. Latricia Gittens, Porter Elementary Principal Lanny Davis, along with Joe White and Phyllis Smith with the Macon Police Department.
Most of the team members wrote in their interview notes that Davis-Jones said she loves children, thinks truancy officers and more parent involvement would help reduce the dropout rate and wants a public information officer to work with the media.
The documents are unclear whether Davis-Jones applied for the Bibb campus police chief before this year. One page of the documents indicates that she applied for the job both in 2009 and 2012, while another page indicates that she has not previously submitted an application to the Bibb County school system.
Between 2008 and 2010, Davis-Jones was named a finalist for law enforcement leadership positions across the Southeast, as chief of police in Madison, Ala., and Jackson, Tenn., as well as in Gainesville and Forsyth in Georgia, according to the documents. She was also a finalist for the director of North Charleston Enhance E911 Center and the deputy chief job in Albany.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.