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Friday May 29th, 2015 8:16PM

Baldwin 'lays off' entire police force

By Rob Moore Reporter
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BALDWIN - Baldwin is not without law enforcement protection this weekend, but will be without its own police department until the new police chief and assistant chief begin work Monday.

Calling the brief special called meeting "a somber moment," Mayor Jerry Neace explained more about what happened during the seven-minute agenda.

"The city council basically laid off the patrol division and the investigative division of the Baldwin Police Department to reorganize and restructure, and to move the police department to a higher professional standard," Neace said following the meeting.

During the meeting, Councilmember Jeff Parrish read a media statement on behalf of the mayor and council.

Following that statement, the council voted 4-0 to proceed with the announced layoff of all officers in the department effective Friday. Councilman Larry Lewallen abstained from the vote, but gave no public reason for not voting on the issue.

"This is not an adverse personnel action," Neace said after the meeting. "We have good people here, and I hope they re-apply so that we can move forward with our new chief and assistant chief."

Asked after the meeting about not voting on the layoffs, Lewallen said he didn't have enough information to feel comfortable voting on the measure.

New Baldwin Police Chief Kevin Brooks and Assistant Chief Chad Nichols begin work Monday, Jan. 27.

In the meantime, officers from the Habersham County Sheriff's Office, Banks County Sheriff's Office and Cornelia Police Department will handle law enforcement in the city during the transition.

Neace said he believed the city had six full-time officers and at least that many part-time officers.

Any clerical positions in the police department, excluding Georgia Crime Information Center employees who fall under a separate budget, also were affected, Parrish said.

In its two-page media statement, released at the end of the meeting upon the vote of the council, a little history is given.

"Over the last several years, for various, unrelated reasons, the Baldwin Police Department has suffered through many changes of its department head, being the chief of police," the statement reads. "The changes in the department head have resulted in a lack of consistency in leadership and which has affected the police department, and which the city council believes needs to be addressed."

The employees that were laid off will receive any accrued time and benefits.

"In that no adverse disciplinary action has been taken against the affected employees, affected employees as laid-off employees will receive their severance pay in compliance with the Baldwin Personnel Ordinance, as well as any accrued time or benefits, and shall have the right like any other certified officer to apply for a position in the reorganized department," the statement reads.
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