BPD officer says he was fired after parking incident at Sportsplex

Saturday, May 13, 2017
A reader submitted this photo apparently showing former Blytheville Police Department Sgt. Dustin LaCotts’ patrol car blocking a ramp at the Blytheville Youth Sportsplex on Tuesday night, as a woman in a wheelchair tries to access it.

A former Blytheville Police Department sergeant is no longer employed with the department, after apparently parking on a handicap ramp at the Blytheville Youth Sportsplex on Tuesday night.

Sgt. Dustin LaCotts wrote on his Facebook page: “Well 12 years into the community as a police office (sic) it’s time for a career change. Thank you to the community and and (sic) my fellow officers. I was let go today for what I thought was a minor incident. Anyone who knows me and has a job opportunity please holler.”

In a phone interview on Friday, LaCotts said, while on duty, he parked on the ramp to drop off baseball equipment for his son’s team and an inhaler for his son, who has Asthma. He noted the parking lot was full and he didn’t want to park too far away in case he got a call.

“It wasn’t an emergency,” but his son needed a dose from the inhaler before the game began, LaCotts said.

“I should not have parked in that spot, but I don’t think it was a fireable offense,” he said.

Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson said his department could not discuss employment issues.

The BPD policy says, in part, “Members are prohibited from parking in handicapped zones, fire lanes, no parking or stopping zones turning lanes, tow away zones or bus stops unless they are currently on a call for service and it is appropriate to do so or on an emergency call, or is a tactically sound procedure.”

LaCotts said a man walked up to him and asked if it was his patrol car blocking the ramp, because the man’s wife was trying to roll up the ramp in her wheelchair.

LaCotts said he apologized to the woman, moved the car, and she told him not to worry about it.

He said Capt. Jeremy Ward saw him park in the spot and didn’t say anything.

However, the next day, LaCotts said he was informed of a photo and met with Capt. Scott Adams and Capt. Ward.

LaCotts said the two captains told him that Thompson wanted him to resign or he would be fired.

He added they also asked him to wait at the BPD until 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to meet with Thompson, though he said he left because he didn’t want to hang around at an agency that had just terminated him.

He said he didn’t come back to the BPD that day because he felt sick at what “I felt was an unjust firing.”

The next day, he said, Thompson told LaCotts that he considered it a verbal resignation that he left and asked if LaCotts had a letter of resignation, though the former sergeant said he didn’t because he thought he was fired.

According to LaCotts, Thompson asked him if there was a letter saying he was terminated and there wasn’t.

LaCotts said he has only been written up once in 12 years on the force, when he was the BPD’s resource officer at the Blytheville School District.

LaCotts said while at a school-related conference, he had a few too many drinks and “exchanged adult texts” with a school-employed security officer.

He said they are both flirtatious, single adults.

But after that incident, at the end of the 2015-16 school year, he was removed from the school and written up for “conduct unbecoming of a police officer.”

Recently, LaCotts said he was moved to the night shift, though told that wasn’t punishment for what he says is a video of him and a lieutenant “negatively discussing the chief’s new policies.”

Though, LaCotts said Capt. Ward moved him to night shift because of his attitude and “being too community-oriented,” going to too many community events.

LaCotts said he served as a mentor for the school children, helping some get scholarships and assisting them in any way he could.

He added coaches would ask him to speak with troubled students.

“A lot of the kids do not have dad figures,” LaCotts said

LaCotts said he has spoken with an attorney, and he is considering his options. “If you make the wrong person mad, they can fire you,” he said.

mbrasfield@blythevillecourier.com