JASPER, TX (KTRE) - The Jasper City Council has named a former police chief as the interim head of the force after terminating the previous chief.
The council made the decision in a special called session on Tuesday. Mayor Mike Lout said Harlan Alexander has 25 years of experience with Jasper Police and retired as chief. Lout said he talked Alexander into accepting the interim post in an effort to clean up the department.
According to the Associated Press, the council voted to fire the previous chief, Rodney Pearson, who was hired last year.
KFDM-TV reports council members questioned Pearson about how much vacation he's taken and other leadership issues.
City Councilman Alton Scott, who voted against firing Pearson, said the dismissal was "racism at its finest."
May elections put new members on the Jasper City Council, replacing some elected officials who backed Pearson. City council members planned to meet Tuesday afternoon and choose an interim police chief.
"He's as fine of a man as I've ever run into," said Charles Coston, Pearson's neighbor.
Coston is disgusted with the council's decision to fire his neighbor.
"He was not treated fairly," Coston said.
He says race played a factor.
"He worked hard as anybody else," Coston said.
In a four-to-one vote in Monday night's city council meeting, the council cited Pearson failed to meet expectations.
A yearly review found the chief taking unapproved vacations, was unreacheable for periods of time, and was not present at the scene of major crimes.
"He said that there was a breakdown in communication, that he wasn't getting called by his department being notified of those things," said Mayor Mike Lout. "But, to me, that showed a breakdown in leadership."
Lout says the firing isn't personal.
He never felt Pearson was qualified for the job.
"Rodney was a good guy, but I just didn't think that he had the experience to be a police chief," Lout said. "He had never been in a leadership position whatsoever."
Resident Vickie Stewart joined others in filing a petition that eventually led to the recall of two city council members who hired Pearson.
"He was not qualified," Stewart said. "He did not meet those qualifications from the beginning. So, I believe that this council did what was responsible to the citizens of Jasper."
"The morale in the department was just falling further and further down," Stewart said.
Stewart and others hope new leadership will bring order to the city and restore confidence in law enforcement.
Lout hopes to hire a new police chief in the next few months.