Last week, members of the Fraternal Order of Police voted they have “no confidence” in Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin.
In a news release, the FOP stated its members voted by majority ‘no confidence’ in several aspects of Chief Bolin’s performance.
Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd sits down with FOP President D.J. Thompson to talk about the ‘no confidence’ vote.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth. It boiled over last week. A resounding vote by the Evansville FOP of no confidence of the leadership of Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin. In a news release the FOP stated members of the FOP voted by majority no confidence in several aspects of Chief Bolin’s performance. Such of a vote had never been taken. I was joined by Chief Bolin for a taped segment of in-depth that aired last Thursday night.
I extended an invitation to Evansville FOP President EPD Sergeant D.J. Thompson for tonight to give his perspective. And he joins us now. Sgt. Thompson, did you have any idea how this was going blow up in the mainstream media and on social media as it had?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: No, no not at all
Brad Byrd: Why is that?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: Our hope was to have this vote and have the numbers to take to the chief and to take to the mayor and to open a discussion into what we felt needed to be done to better the working conditions
Brad Byrd: And with the wording of these talking points in your release when you indicated the no confidence vote had been taken, the perception is there is bad blood in the Evansville Police Department? Is that too harsh of a statement? Or what do you think?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: I don’t necessarily think that there’s bad blood at all. I think we don’t agree with the leadership of the police department. As far as personality wise, I don’t believe there’s bad blood.
Brad Byrd: This no confidence vote – originally in August – was going to be a no confidence vote about the administration of the Evansville Police Department. But you changed the direction of that, targeting Chief Billy Bolin, why is that?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: After it was discussed at the original meeting to have the vote of no confidence against the administration as a whole, myself along with several other board members were approached by our membership and the question was, what exactly is our administration. Different people had different ideas of our administration. Me being a Sgt. Some of them consider me the administration and we just thought we would clean it up if we made the no confidence vote against Billy Bolin – ultimately the person in charge of the department.
Brad Byrd: Sgt. Jason Cullum, the PIO of the EPD, made this statement after your news conference, he held a session with reporters that was streamed live on various digital platforms. Basically, stating a rebuttal to the talking points that the FOP had given. He said, “During my press conference, I disputed multiple talking points DJ used before and after the FOP vote. I provided the reporters with copies of the attached documents that we used as our references. DJ went on live TV after my presser and repeated the same information that had just been disputed. I stand by everything I said, while he couldn’t cite his own references.” Now, you tell me you were unable to see that news conference that Sgt. Cullum presented, but you have seen it since, right?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: Yes.
Brad Byrd: Was he on target here in that statement in your opinion?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: No, I will stand by the UCR numbers. I actually double checked them and today, in fact, I double checked the UCR numbers and I am right on.
Brad Byrd: Ok, when you say UCR numbers – the crimes?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: The FBI Unified Crime Report, I’m not sure what the UCR stands for. But it’s FBI numbers.
Brad Byrd: And you were also citing motor patrol numbers – the number of officers in motor patrol – the number you gave was 110 and the EPD Chief and Sgt. Cullum are disputing that. And Chief Billy Bolin in a statement he made during that taped interview last week he said, “a lot of those numbers are completely false, they’re completely fabricated, and we can show on paper where those numbers aren’t correct. Now, we are short right now in patrol as departments all over the country, and the national FOP will tell you this, the Indiana Chief of Police Association, which I sit on the Board of Directors of, will tell you this; it’s a nationwide epidemic, it’s not a great time to be a law enforcement officer so, people aren’t wanting to go into this profession.” What’s your take on that? As far as new recruits and people wanting to get into the EPD.
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: I know when I came on, I believe there were 1,000 people that applied – I think our last application list we had about 120. I think it has a lot to do with how the media perceives law enforcement, specifically the officers. It’s a job that people just don’t want to get into. I don’t know. I don’t think issues like this help us any, which is very, very sad to say.
Brad Byrd: This no confidence vote – there’s obviously a split here- but you say there’s no bad blood here and Chief Bolin said last week, you’re welcome to come into his office at any time. So, what’s the problem?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: Yes, he does have an open-door policy, but I find that our complaints are dismissed by him quite often when we go in. We have a labor management meeting, which is several street level officers and detectives, and they meet with the administration and we’ve even brought up our manning issues there and we were told they didn’t want to hear about our manning issues.
Brad Byrd: So, the personality of Chief Bolin and your personality, you told me earlier that he’s a good guy and you two could probably go out on the town, I’m not sharing confidential information, but that was what you said to me. But it doesn’t sound like two men who can’t get anything done
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: I think the difference is – I know I’m a policeman 24/7 – but I also have a life outside of here – Chief Bolin is the same way. I think personally him and I on a non-professional level would get along fine. He has a job to do, an administration to run – I have a job to do. I have been elected FOP President for our lodge. I have a job to do. So, sometimes those jobs don’t meet up with each other.
Brad Byrd: And last Thursday, Chief Bolin said absolutely, he would appear on the air here with you to discuss issues facing law enforcement in our community. Will you do that? Side by side with Chief Bolin.
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: I’ll need a bigger chair.
Brad Byrd: We have extra chairs.
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: Yes, yes, I would do that.
Brad Byrd: Ok, but you told me earlier that might be a boring conversation. What did you mean that?
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: I think the issues that we have are issues that as the general public wouldn’t understand, like any other job. I think if they have issues at Toyota, it’s not gonna mean a whole lot even though it’s issues to them. I think us discussing our issues amongst ourselves, I don’t think there’d be any fireworks, I do believe that we could have productive conversations – I think it’d just be like listening in on two guys talking. I don’t think it’s going to be anything dramatic.
Brad Byrd: Sometimes boring is a good thing, especially when people have seen what has been said about this no confidence vote. This was an overwhelming vote. Chief Bolin said that when he was in your shoes, he was often at odds with the administration. With that being said, what is this doing to the image of the Evansville Police Department – the no confidence vote and this now boyle that has been opened up and is affecting officers like and administration officials like Chief Bolin.
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: To answer part of that question, you’re always going to have labor and management issues. In the past what we’ve been able to do is to get with the management part and we’ve come to agreeable end for what our issues are. And if it wasn’t agreeable at least we understood what was going on. As far as law enforcement now, I think this has a positive affect on the members of the Evansville Police Department – it’s brought them a lot closer together, they feel their complaints and their concerns have been heard. I think as a department, a large majority of our members have gotten closer.
Brad Byrd: I’m going to do my best to get both of you and get you to have civil conversation about law enforcement. I’m not a negotiator or a mediator, but personally I think if you can see two opposing sides of law enforcement on the same platform, quite frankly, it makes my job a lot easier. You can basically disagree and have a conversation without the venom we’ve seen. Sgt. D.J. Thompson, I sincerely appreciate you being here tonight. I’ll get the arrangements together and we’ll see you and Chief Bolin soon.
Sgt. D.J. Thompson: Thank you for the chance to be on here.
(This story was originally published on September 24, 2019)