Rodney Pearson, the state trooper who found the mutilated body of James Byrd on a dirt road some 14 years ago in Jasper, Texas, is in the middle of another racial scandal, CNN reports. In April of 2011, Pearson was promoted to interim chief of police in Jasper. But he says that as soon as the title became permanent, his troubles began.
Although Pearson was the first African American chief, he was not given a traditional public swearing-in ceremony.
“They wanted to wait until things calmed down,” he said.
But things didn’t calm down. They got worse. He says members of the Jasper Police Department purposefully met without his knowledge and staged “out-sick” protests. Several officers quit after being reassigned. Pearson also says that the town’s local radio station KJAS, owned by Jasper Mayor Mike Lout, the same man who fought his appointment as police chief, has made him their main target.
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Pearson was hired by a city council composed of four black members and one white member. The vote divided along racial lines: the blacks voted in favor, and the white council member voted against.
The problem was compounded when Jasper Mayor Mike Lout, who is white, backed a different candidate – an 18-year veteran of the Jasper police force.
The City Council, not the mayor, chooses the police chief. Two black council members say the mayor overstepped his authority and tried to interfere in the selection.
Lout, a former friend of Pearson’s, says he thought Pearson lacked leadership and was surprised when Pearson was given the job.
“He just basically didn’t have, he didn’t know how to tell other people what to do and how to command, I felt,” Lout said. “I didn’t think he was the man for the job then, I don’t think he’s the man for the job now. As far as it being a black-or-white issue, I’ve pushed for a white and I’ve pushed for a black man as candidates for that job. In fact, the man that I pushed the most was a black man from Houston.”
Pearson’s lawyer defended his client’s qualifications, saying that his firing is suspect.
“They never had problem with him as a state trooper … but as soon as he became that most symbolic of positions, chief of police, then they have a problem; then he’s incompetent and the City Council that elected him, they’re also incompetent,” said Cade Bernsen, Pearson’s attorney.
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The Jasper’s city council was reconfigured via a recall earlier this year and the racial makeup changed soon after. In May of 2012, the council was made up of four Whites and one Black member. Without even interviewing Pearson for the job he was appointed to do, the new council fired him on June 14. He was ordered to clean out his locker that night.
Terrya Norsworthy, one of the two Black council members who was recalled, defended hiring Pearson and questioned the rationale behind the recall.
“We were not incompetent when we voted for raises for the city of Jasper,” Norsworthy said. “We were not incompetent when we bought $100,000 in equipment. Now all of a sudden we make a positive decision for the city and we find ourselves recalled?”
She lost her seat in the recall effort.
Pearson has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that racism was behind his firing and that he was not afforded the benefits and salary of past police chiefs.
The EEOC has not responded to the complaint yet.
Go to CNN for the rest of the details of this story.
Originally seen on http://newsone.com/