The new City of South Fulton had its first police chief – briefly.
Luther Lamar, assistant chief of police at Baton Rouge Community College and a 14-year veteran of the Fulton County police, was hired to run the new department earlier this month.
Bill Edwards, the South Fulton mayor, said he made the selection because Lamar was the best of more than 80 candidates.
But, he said, members of city council disagreed. The council unanimously vetoed Edwards’ selection, Channel 2 reported.
“There is a provision of the law that during the transition period, in the absence of the city manager, that the council can weigh on the hiring and firing of individuals,” Edwards told the news station.
Because Lamar had never been a police chief elsewhere, they thought another candidate would be a better choice.
“I still think he’s the best qualified,” Edwards said. “That argument has no merit.”
Edwards said other local police chiefs, including Atlanta chief Erika Shields, were not police chiefs in other cities before taking over their departments.
Lamar has years of command experience, Edwards said, and is working on a doctorate. On top of that, he knows the city.
“Nobody can compare to that,” he said.
South Fulton has scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss personnel matters on Wednesday, which Edwards said was probably meant to deal with his hiring decision. While these decisions would ordinarily fall to a city manager, Edwards is acting in that capacity while negotiations continue with a new manager for the city.
“I felt I had the right to do that,” Edwards said of the hire. “I guess I don’t.”
Lamar, and other candidates, were vetted by police professionals, including the police chiefs of Union City and Dunwoody and Eldrin Bell, a former Atlanta police chief, Edwards said.
The city will bring police officers over at the end of March. Edwards said in order to do so, a new chief must be hired.
“Now, we’re back to square one,” he said.
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