Port Arthur police chief issues response to no-confidence vote

Chief Melvin at a first responders luncheon Jan. 30 | Photo: Eleanor Skelton
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Port Arthur Police Chief Patrick Melvin issued a response Nov. 19 to the police union's recent no-confidence vote.

85 percent of members that participated voted no in the online poll conducted between Oct. 27 and Nov. 6, the Port Arthur Police Association announced in a statement Nov. 6.

The vote was anonymous and asked for yes or no responses to the following question:

"As a Port Arthur Police Officer, do you have confidence in the police chief, and the administration he has put in place, to effectively and efficiently manage the department in a manner that promotes a good working environment among officers, provides leadership to officers, and provides the citizens of Port Arthur the services and protection they deserve?"

In his letter responding to the vote, Melvin said he believes the changes he is making are being met with opposition, citing steps towards greater accountability, his "no profanity" policy and revising 20 year old department protocols as examples.

The Port Arthur Police Association criticized an earlier statement from Melvin, accusing him Nov. 9 of plagiarizing from Denver Police Chief Robert White's statement responding to his own no-confidence vote, published in the Denver Post Oct. 24.

The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) released a letter Nov. 8 stating the organization supports the Port Arthur Police Association, their affiliate, in “its recent condemnation” of Melvin. 

“It is highly unusual in Texas for a law enforcement association to take such a step,” CLEAT said. 

Chief Melvin's letter:

Confidence in our police department is vital to the safety and security of our community and essential to restore and keep trust in the department and law enforcement.

Change is often an uncomfortable and possibly painful process.

Reforming the culture and practices of our police department has been and will be met with resistance and opposition. That is a natural response when the ways of the past are being dismantled and made way for a new day in Port Arthur policing.

Over the past 13 months, we have implemented many initiatives that have moved our department toward those goals, despite the direct opposition and lack of cooperation from some of the Port Arthur Police Union and their executive leadership.

After recently meeting with the Union Executive Board, Lieutenant Reid Rowe, Lieutenant Martin “Bubba” Blitch, Lieutenant Jeremy Lloyd, Sgt. Shawn Perron, Sgt. Chris Billiot, and Greg Mouton, I still have not been provided a list of grievances or a reasonable rationale for their vote of no confidence. It is clear our respective goals for the citizens of Port Arthur are not aligned.

My goal is to create a culture and practice that our citizens can have confidence and support. We work for the people of Port Arthur, not for the Police Union.

Our job is to protect and serve the people of Port Arthur, not the status quo of a broken system. I was hired to increase the professionalism of the police department and to protect and serve the people of Port Arthur.

In my efforts to do [that], I am aware that some in the department may be uncomfortable and I encourage them to get on board. I realize that my department members are my number one resource and I desire to retain all those who are willing to adapt to necessary change. However, I also realize that this type of professional policing is not for everyone.

Our first priority is our citizens and I intend to uphold that commitment.

The status quo, once exposed, begins to push back and protect itself. That is the nature of change and that is what we are accomplishing in Port Arthur. I am a Houston native and as such, building a trustworthy department is paramount, especially given Texas is my home state where my family lives, works and plays.

We are involved in national accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies and state accreditation with the Texas Police Chiefs Association.

This process has required us to rewrite and update all of our police policies, some of which have not been revised for over 20 years.

We now have a council-appointed Police Chief Advisory Committee that meets with the police chief and senior command staff monthly to offer suggestions to the police department on how the police department can improve services to our community.

Accountability is now expected at all levels of the Port Arthur Police Department. We are accountable to the community we serve as is evidenced by our mission statement which is to reduce crime, professionally protect and serve our community and treat everyone with dignity, respect, fairness and privacy when appropriate.

I host the “Chat with the Chief” live radio program monthly in which I interface directly with community members and answer questions directly from the community concerning issues of concern to the police department. I am joined on occasion with other members of the department who assist with live radio responses to the community.

Additionally, each quarter, I host a “Community Chat with the Chief” community meeting, usually at the public library or city hall chambers in which the community is invited to share concerns, and ask questions to the leadership of the police department over a cup of coffee.

Another change to the Port Arthur Police Department that has been met with great opposition is the “no profanity policy.” The reason for initiating this policy involves professionalism both internally within the police department and externally in the community. A military leader once told me and my colleagues that “practice makes permanent!” I am definitely not the “morality” police chief, but I do believe that if you practice professionalism, it will eventually become permanent. It is my opinion that profanity in the workplace is unacceptable and I believe our community deserves better. Many officers have reaffirmed their support of this policy and look forward to others adopting this practice as part of our overall reforms.

We are definitely now community-engaged and involved, which has been met with some internal opposition. However, the Port Arthur Police Department can be seen representing at our community churches and places of worship, hosting community activity days with our community youth and families, and we are active with our different community social activities and events.

In the spring, the police department is collaborating with the school district, specifically our community high school with the police explorer youth program. Our motto of being PAPD (Proactive, Accountable, Professional, and Dedicated) speaks volumes of where we intend to go in our quest to become a professional police agency that our community members can be proud of.

We want our community members to feel safe and secure in their communities.