THE INVESTIGATORS: Female officer asked to train replacement after being demoted, having pay cut

Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 11:32 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An attorney for a Port Allen police officer claims his client may be a target of gender discrimination after she was recently demoted and her pay was cut without warning and without a reason given. A new chief came in back in January 2021 and the attorney says things went downhill for his client from the very first day.

Kendra Wisam has given her all to the Port Allen Police Department. For the last five years, she has served as acting captain but that all changed literally the moment the new Chief of Police Corey Hicks took over. The 9News Investigators obtained a letter the chief sent to Wisham on the first day he came in which told her she was being replaced by Sergeant Casey Williams.

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WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked attorney Tommy Dewey if the officer who replaced his client had more experience than she did.

“My understanding, he does not have more experience,” said Dewey. “He was lower in rank and she was in fact asked by the chief to train him for the position.”

The letters didn’t stop there. Nearly a month later, Wisham got another letter instructing her to clean out her office. The next day, another letter told her she would be cut from a Lieutenant back to a patrol officer and her pay would be slashed by $7,000. The only reason given in the letter was “to bring stability to the department and make it more effective.”

”It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Dewey. “Why do you replace a well-qualified African American female with a male officer that is junior to you and doesn’t have the qualifications that you do and you’ve done nothing wrong to deserve the demotion?”

Dewey says his client has been a model officer. As one of only three women on the force, she’s racked up 16 certifications, was named officer of the year, and is one of the most senior officers with the department. All of that was still not enough to keep her from getting demoted. Wisham’s attorney says simply, it stinks. He tells WAFB his client wasn’t given a chance or an evaluation before the decision was made.

”It doesn’t bode well and I can’t see any justification for it,” said Dewey.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Dewey if he felt like this case could be considered gender discrimination because the chief made the decision the first day he came into the role.

“I think there’s a strong case for that for sure,” said Dewey. “Why would you want to stay somewhere where you’re at the whim of a chief who can move you for whatever reason?”WAFB reached out to the chief to get his side of what happened. He responded via email with the following response.

“I did recommend to the Council various changes to the Police Department organizational structure. Those recommendations were approved by the Council at last week’s meeting. Due to privacy concerns, however, it would not be proper for me to publicly discuss the specific reasons for my recommendations. As a result, I must respectfully decline your request for an interview. Ms. Wisham remains, though, a valuable member of our department.”

The Port Allen city council voted two weeks ago to uphold the chief’s decision but Wisham’s attorney says he still wants answers.

”I surely would like the chief to answer why on the first day he moved a female officer out of senior rank, of good standing and put in a man officer,” said Dewey. “What was his reason for that?”

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