SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – One day before a special meeting was set to vote on whether to call for the resignation of Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins and the chief himself confirmed Raymond has already resigned – but he will not be leaving the department.

“The safety of each and every citizen that calls Shreveport home is my number one priority since I took the oath of office as mayor,” Perkins said during a hastily called news conference late Thursday afternoon. “We are experiencing an inexcusable surge of violent crime in this particular moment. And my number one priority is focusing on the future and making sure that each and every citizen of Shreveport is as safe as possible. And the police department needs change. This is not a decision that I have come upon lightly.”

During the news conference, Perkins announced the appointment of Asst. Chief Wayne Smith as interim chief.

“He’s not just a placeholder, he’s a leader,” Perkins said of Smith, who has four decades of service with the department. “And we’re excited about his leadership.”

“At this time, I would like to thank Chief Raymond for his decades of service to the City of Shreveport and his tireless work that he’s put in,” Perkins said, although Raymond will not be leaving the department entirely.

“At your request, I am asking you to vacate the position of Chief of Police and to accept a demotion to the rank of Sergeant, which is the last promotional rank I held based on my seniority in the department,” Raymond says in a letter submitted to the mayor on August 9.

Raymond will go on leave September 1 and return to report for duty on November 16, 2021.

During the news conference, Perkins revealed that he had requested the resignation on June 2, but that he allowed Raymond time to complete training and prepare the department for the transition.

“I hope the next chief of police, Assistant Chief of Police Wayne Smith, will get the cooperation and support he deserves. When I accepted the position to lead this department I knew this day would come. When the mayor asked if I would step down as chief of police several weeks ago, there were a lot of emotions, which took time to process,” Raymond said during the news conference.

“Ultimately, I feel the decision to step down is in the best interest of the department and I know this is God’s will for my life. I am not, however, ready to turn in my badge, and I still have a desire and the ability to serve.”

Raymond, who took over as interim chief in 2018 and was formally appointed to the job in September 2019, noted that his first full year in the job saw “a drastic reduction in crime,” including property and violent crimes. Then the pandemic hit.

“In addition to numerous responsibilities we faced on a daily basis, we had to deal with a new series of concerns regarding the spread of a deadly virus and the devastating impact it was having on our citizens, businesses and economy as a whole. A reduction in qualified applications and an increase in resignations and retirements began to negatively impact our ability to respond to calls for service and perform proactive enforcement and at reducing crime.”

Raymond pointed to the national protests and calls for police reform that followed “a high-profile use of force incident” and said SPD was dealing with similar issues soon after. Raymond commended his department’s response to the local protests, noting Shreveport did not see the violence and destruction that plagued many cities.

Spikes and violent crime were the next order of events,” Raymond said. “and once again, Shreveport was not spared. Many cities our nation saw historical increases in homicides and shootings, combined with a shortage of public safety personnel and anti-law enforcement sentiment, violent crime has become a national crisis. Unfortunately, law enforcement as a whole and law enforcement leaders in particular have been blamed for these problems.

Recently, legislation was introduced calling for a vote of no confidence in my leadership. To blame me as chief of police for the violent offenders roaming our streets is ludicrous. We do not blame the fire chief for business or houses which burn to the ground – not even those in horrific incidents in which lives are lost.”

Resolution 110 of 2021 was proposed by Councilmembers Jerry Bowman and Levette Fuller and it cited the police department’s understaffing and recruiting issues, failure to improve crime rates, and the rise in homicide and violent crimes among the reasons for the vote.

Shortly after Perkins called the news conference Thursday afternoon, Fuller confirmed to KTAL/KMSS that the special meeting will be postponed pending Perkins’ announcement. The meeting has since been canceled altogether.

Thursday’s events came after a particularly violent weekend in Shreveport that included three fatal shootings, along with several other shootings and violent crimes over the past several days.