DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - The Denham Springs Police Department officially has a new chief. The city council voted to give Interim Police Chief Shannon Womack, a department veteran, the full job.
Womack replaces ex-chief, Scott Jones, who was fired in April over how he handled an alleged domestic abuse case involving city councilman Chris Davis.
Davis and his wife, the alleged victim, have since said the incident was an accident. Jones, meanwhile, is still fighting to get his old job back. After the Civil Service Board upheld his termination in June, Jones asked the court for an appeal. Arguments in that trial start in January 2017. Davis cast the lone vote against appointing Womack. The councilman said he felt the city should wait until Jones' case was settled before making any appointments.
The city attorney explained that if a judge rules in Jones' favor, it could open the city up to lawsuits. However, the city has also been told by the state that they cannot wait any longer to appoint a new chief.
"Whatever happens in the appeals process we'll handle at that time," said Mayor Gerard Landry.
Landry recommended Womack for the job. He said Womack's work experience and time with the department make him the best choice.
"I think he's extremely qualified and we're excited to have him as the official police chief," said Landry.
The new chief says now that he carries the full weight of the position, he can start uniting a department that he says has become "fractured" over the years.
"Getting people to talk. Getting them back; making them realize we're all on the same page. We're all in the same job. We swear the same oath when we get this job," said Womack.
Another priority will be getting better benefits for officers. Womack told the council he lost seven officers to other departments since April. He said the council has been open to working with him to come up with more benefits, but the flood delayed things.
Womack's tenure will start with a six-month probation period and a review by the council scheduled after the first 90 days. The mayor says that is a common procedure when the city makes a new appointment.