JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - A Jennings police officer who was fired after he failed to give a sobriety test to a superior officer, was reinstated Thursday evening.
Mike Janise, who prior to his firing had been a Lieutenant, was reinstated and given a lower rank of Sergeant. Janise will also have to complete a 60 day suspension without pay as part of his reinstatement and must wait a year before he can be promoted.
This ruling, by the Jennings Municipal Civil Service Board, overturns the termination given by the police chief and mayor.
The City had argued that it was inappropriate for Janise to not give a field sobriety test to then-Capt. Craig Billodeaux. Billodeaux was involved in a car crash on the evening of Dec. 19th after attending a Christmas party. Janise was the responding officer.
According to witnesses, Billodeaux was drunk and behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
During his testimony on Thursday, Billodeaux, who himself was demoted from captain to lieutenant, admitted to drinking that night. However, he says he was not drunk.
The City also argued that Janise was rightfully terminated because he gave inconsistent statements to his police chief and to those conducting the internal investigation about Billodeaux's condition.
Jennings City Attorney Kevin Millican said Janise was fired because his bosses could simply no longer trust him.
"When I took office, I made a promise to this community to return integrity to the Jennings Police Department," said D'Albor. "Without integrity we don't have a leg to stand on. I stand on my decision. He neglected his duties as an officer."
The defense countered that Janise was well within his right to not give a sobriety test to Billodeaux, since law enforcement officers have a certain amount of discretion they are allowed to exercise in the field. The defense also argued that Janise's statements were taken out of context and misunderstood.
The civil service board, which Janise himself is a member of, heard testimony from five witnesses on Thursday.
The witnesses included one of Janise's fellow officers who testified that Janise had to have known Billodeaux was drinking that night. The officer said Billodeaux could barely stand and was slurring his words.
"You could barely understand him," said the officer.
The defense shot back that Janise was exercising discretion for a longtime friend and colleague in choosing to forgo a sobriety test.
Janise testified that had he not been exercising discretion, then dozens of officers would have been arrested that night because a lot of them were drinking.
Janise admits that he made a mistake, a mistake he said he would not repeat again.
Janise's attorney, Rick Oustalet, said his client should have received a demotion rather than being terminated.
"This is about an officer who has dedicated 17 years to his job. This is his life and career," said Janise's defense attorney Ric Oustalet, Jr.
The civil service board agreed, voting unanimously to reinstate Janise.
Jennings Police Chief Todd D'Albor said he, the mayor and city counsel would meet later on to decide what to do next. They do have the option of appealing the board's decision.