Police chief finalists named: Five current, former PA officers in the running

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, July 12, 2018

Five current or former Port Arthur police officers have been named finalists for the position of chief of police.

The list of names was released by the city secretary’s office shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

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The five police chief finalists include:

• Alton Baise. Over 32 years experience in police work and is currently employed with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office as fugitive warrant officer and was previously employed with PAPD.

• Martin “Bubba” Blitch. Over 32 years criminal justice and law enforcement experience. He is currently employed with PAPD as deputy chief.

• Jon Carona. Real estate agent who retired from PAPD in 2017 with over 27 years service.

• Tim Duriso. Supervisory special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, worked for PAPD for 13 years prior.

• John Leger. SWAT commander with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, spent 18 years with PAPD

The five finalists were chosen from a pool of 39 applicants, six of which served or are currently serving with PAPD while other applicants hailed from other areas of the state and beyond.

The last time the city sought a police chief they did so with the help of the search firm Strategic Government Resources and none of the finalists were internal. The man that was chosen, Patrick Melvin, resigned his post May 19 after less than two years with the department.

Melvin came under fire by some for his leadership style, shuffling officers around while promoting some with minimum experience and bumping heads with the police union, which ultimately issued a vote of “no confidence” against him.

Additionally, a group of officers were placed on administrative leave for possible corruption. Of those, one resigned, one is in arbitration to get his job back, one retired, some left PAPD and work for other agencies, and several were brought back to work.

Of those returned to service, one left to work at a neighboring police department and was in contention for the chief of police job in that city while another, John Owens, was reinstated. He eventually was promoted back to deputy chief and is now serving as interim police chief.