Police chief ditches denim, wears uniform

For the first time in months, Jonesboro's police chief didn't wear a tie to work on Thursday.

He didn't wear his jeans, either.

Instead, Brad Johnson wore an official police uniform, which the Clayton city's mayor, Luther Maddox, requested.

That meant a starched white shirt with his badge, black pants and shiny black shoes.

"I don't have any objection to the uniform," Johnson said from his office Thursday afternoon. "I've worn a uniform for many, many years," said the former state patrol officer.

But Johnson says he was never told to change his clothes until he got a letter from Maddox on April 28 stating he was being suspended for five working days.

In a memo to Johnson and sent to the six city council members, Maddox wrote that jeans are not professional attire for a representative of the city.

Johnson, 47, said he's been wearing his Wranglers — along with a shirt, tie and jacket — since December. And he hasn't heard a single complaint.

He started wearing his jeans after he learned he'd be the city's next top cop. Under the former Chief Wayne Rowland, Johnson said he was required to wear khaki pants and a polo-style shirt with the police logo.

"I really think it was an upgrade," Johnson said of his jeans.

Johnson, who has been with the department for more than four years, says he knows the police dress code very well. He wrote it.

The code states that uniformed employees should "maintain a professional appearance." It also states that no part of an official uniform should worn with "civilian" clothes.

Section 6 of the dress code states, "When necessary, the Chief may prescribe other types of clothing to be worn."

Johnson, a horse owner, says by wearing his own clothing, he saved the city money. It isn't cheap to dress the patrol's 21 uniformed officers.

The self-proclaimed "cowboy" owns 11 pairs of his favorite jeans, and says he paid for all of them. Now city funds will have to be used to purchase his uniforms. His uniform Thursday cost about $200, Johnson estimated.

"It's going to be expensive for me to look professional," Johnson said.

The Jonesboro city charter allows the mayor to suspend employees up to five "calendar" days. But Johnson wasn't allowed to go back to work until May 5, six full days after being told of the suspension.

At a hearing Wednesday afternoon, the city council voted to cut the suspension in half. Maddox, 68, admitted at the hearing that he had never ordered Johnson not to wear jeans.

Maddox was elected to a four-year term in 2007 after serving six years on the Jonesboro City Council. He was not at city hall late Thursday and could not be reached at home.

Johnson and attorney Keith Martin said Thursday they plan to file an appeal in Clayton County Superior Court.

"This has nothing to do with performance," Johnson said.