Pearl River Police Chief Says he will likely defy ban on his attending town festival

PEARL RIVER, LA (WVUE) - The police chief of the town of Pearl River says he will likely defy an order by the organizers of a town festival prohibiting him from attending this weekends event. Chief J.J Jennings says he doesn't believe the ban is legal.

This  weekend, the grounds will be packed for one of Pearl River's biggest festival, but the town's police chief is being banned, and he's crying politics.

"If there was a fight or a shooting, how can you say I'm not welcome on the property," said Jennings.

He's not sure of the legality of  an order barring him from attending this weekend's Honey Island Swamp Festival.

"Not at all, once they signed that cooperative endeavor agreement that property belong to the town, you can't ban me or any citizen is just wrong," said Jennings.

Bridget Bennett, a town alderwoman, and swamp fest organizer, co-signed a letter, barring Jennings from their properties. It accuses Jennings of scaring their 18-year-old daughter during alleged stakeouts, charges Jennings denies.

"There's one alderman who hates the chief, and the dept, and this is what this is coming from," said Jennings.

Organizers also say Jennings has not been cooperative.

"We sent him  emails, please respond, and he never did, so we contacted the sheriff's office," said festival board member Debbie Hebert.

Jennings says he never got an email, until after organizers made other security arrangements. His 28 member police force provided security at last year's event but may have angered some organizers when Jennings decided not to let festival operations extend until midnight.

"The one thing, volunteers wanted to go home when it was supposed to end, and insurance only covered us for certain hours," said Jennings.

He says the town is putting up thousands of dollars to put on the festival and gets little back.

"None of the proceeds went back to the town,  which I have a problem with," said Jennings.

But organizers say money does go to the Lions Club which is used throughout the community and they say the festival is good for Pearl River.

But Jennings says some of the money has gone to scholarships benefiting relatives of town officials.

"It upsets me, it really does. It's a little town, we need to work together," said Hebert.

Whether or not he goes onto festival grounds this weekend, Chief Jennings says his department will be providing traffic enforcement outside the grounds, from Pearl River.

Wednesday  afternoon, alderwoman Bennett says the owners of the festival property imposed  the ban on Jennings this weekend, and she says it had nothing to do with the stakeouts on her property.

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