UPDATED: Owens reinstated to deputy chief at PAPD

Published 8:04 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

Port Arthur Police Lt. John Owens, who was placed on administrative leave last February, has been reinstated to his role as deputy chief and is back working with the criminal investigations division.

Mayor Derrick Freeman also appointed Owens back to the role as emergency management coordinator for the city Monday.

“We are so happy to have Owens back on the team. He’s been missed while he was out,” Freeman said. “He’s a valuable part of our emergency management team.”

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Owens said he is pleased to be back in his former position within the department and the city.

“I’m just happy and excited to be back,” Owens said.

PAPD Chief Patrick Melvin said that Owens’ experience, knowledge and leadership will greatly enhance the Port Arthur Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management’s ability to efficiently and professionally serve the citizens of Port Arthur.

The city had an opening for the deputy chief/major position in the police department when someone left that position.

“When looking at the needs of the department and all of the experience that was lost in transition, there was a definite need for experience in my view of the department,” interim city manager Harvey Robinson said without an explanation of the word “transition.”

The decision was made public following a special city council meeting Monday morning. A portion of the meeting was held in closed, or executive, session.

One of the agenda items was discussion with the city attorney/legal counsel regarding a pending claim against the city including a Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool claim, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim and Owens vs. the City of Port Arthur.

Owens, a veteran officer, was one of five PAPD officers named in an affidavit alleging wrongdoing within the department in February 2017.

Det. Elie Van Horn, citing the Texas Whistleblower Act, filed the affidavit against other officers in the department. His sworn, notarized affidavit told of issues ranging from obstruction or retaliation and misuse of official information to official oppression involving five fellow officers.

The affidavit signed Feb. 17 was obtained through an open records request to the Texas Department of Public Safety and named Deputy Chief Raymond Clark, Deputy Chief John Owens, Sgt. Scott Gaspard, Sgt. Kris Boneau and Det. Mickey Sterling.

Gaspard resigned his position in late February 2017 and Clark retired.

Owens, Boneau and Sterling were placed on administrative leave while the Texas Rangers reviewed the allegations of misconduct to determine if a criminal investigation was warranted. The findings were to be presented to the Jefferson County District Attorney for review upon completion, according to an archived story.

About six weeks later Owens and Boneau were reinstated to the department and reassigned. Boneau later left and went to Nederland Police Department where he was recently named a finalist in the running for Nederland police chief.

Owens returned, stripped of his previous rank of deputy chief/major, and reassigned to another division.

Sterling has been in arbitration to get his job back.