A Pine Bluff police officer who was fired for insubordination wants her job back.
Chelsea Walters, who had been on the force for two years before her termination, appealed Thursday to a three-member civilian review panel consisting of Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Montgomery, Code Enforcement Director Evelyn Horton and Carla Covey of the Fire and Emergency Services Department.
Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant fired Walters after an incident that occurred on June 23 when Walters, who was being counseled by one of her patrol shift sergeants for smoking on duty, got up to walk out of the room. When she was told not to leave by Cassandra Briggs-McAfee, Walters walked out anyway and began cursing for three to five minutes, according to information revealed Thursday.
Another supervisor, Sgt. Marcia Oliver, was in the muster room and said she could hear loud voices, along with what she thought was someone beating on the wall, Sergeant said. He said McAfee called Lt. Edna Butler, who then contacted Capt. Denise Richardson, who advised that Walters should be placed on administrative leave at that moment.
Sergeant said he was not only responsible for the safety of citizens but also for his own officers, and that actions like those of Walters were not acceptable in a work environment.
“I want to maintain the integrity of my agency,” he said.
Walters, who presented her side first on Thursday, said that she had been dispatched to check the welfare of a woman and her two children; while there, she lit up a cigar and began to smoke it while talking to the woman. Another person who was there took a photo of Walters smoking the cigar and sent it to the department. Soon after, Briggs-McAfee called her in for a counseling session.
Walters said she had previously been issued a verbal warning about the same subject and was asked to sign a counseling statement, which she did. Walters went on to say that she had been under a lot of pressure, and two family members had recently died, something she said Briggs-McAfee was aware of.
After signing the first statement, Walters said Briggs-McAfee told her that there was a second form she needed to sign, and Walters said she got up to go to the restroom to wash her face when Briggs-McAfee told her not to leave. She said she went to the restroom anyway, and when she returned to the room, she could not enter it because Sgt. Kenny Evans was sitting in the chair she had previously occupied. Walters said Briggs-McAfee began to yell, “you don’t walk away.”
After Briggs-McAfee told Evans to close the office door, Walters said she walked down the hall toward the outside door and said, “this is some (expletive) b… s…,” a statement Oliver said she heard.
Walters also said Oliver was present when she hit the wall with her hand. Afterward, she said when Butler arrived, she asked for Walters’ weapon and radio. Oliver then drove Walters home, where she retrieved her department-issued shotgun from the trunk of one of her vehicles.
“I could have handled it a lot better,” Walters said.
Sergeant told the panel that this was the second time that Walters had been disciplined — the first was a five-day suspension, which was reduced to three days after an issue with Evans.
Horton asked Walters if she had been given a copy of all the rules and policies of the department when she was hired, and Walter said she had. Despite having those rules and policies, Horton said that Walters had been caught smoking twice.
“To have been warned more than once is very serious,” Horton said.
Covey asked Walters if she had smoked in a police car, and Walters said no, explaining that when she wanted to smoke, she would pull over and get out of the vehicle.
She also confirmed that there was no report of the welfare check incident.
Walters also said that Assistant Chief (Ricky) Whitmore and Deputy Chief (Terry) Hopson had recommended that she receive a 30-day suspension instead of being fired and asked the review panel to consider altering her punishment to that.
Sergeant said that even though the deputy and assistant chiefs make recommendations on discipline, he has the ultimate responsibility of making the decision.
“She admitted what she did was wrong,” Sergeant said. “I cannot and will not allow this level of insubordination.”
The review panel will have 1o day to make their decision in the case.
Attorney Russell Wood accompanied Walters to the hearing, but because of the rules that established the system when the Pine Bluff City Council abolished the Civil Service Commission, he was not permitted to intervene. His objection to having the media at the hearing was also not accepted.