SALLISAW — The elected police chief here has been stripped of his supervisory powers amid allegations that he fostered a hostile work environment, mistreated employees and nearly led the department to the “point of being dysfunctional,” city officials say.
Shaloa Edwards was relieved of his duties last week after the Sallisaw City Commission voted unanimously to change city code and allow City Manager Bill Baker to assume control of the police department for a 90-day period.
Edwards, who is accused of stealing small amounts of petty cash from the city, already is under investigation.
Baker said city officials have received complaints from six or seven police officers regarding Edwards' ability to perform his duties as police chief. He said problems at the Sallisaw Police Department have “really come to a head within the last year.”
“Just in general, part of their complaints is retaliatory action taken against some of the officers … favoritism,” he said. “From what I'm hearing from a lot them, they've just lost confidence in the chief. Morale is very, very low.”
The local police union also took a vote of no confidence regarding Edwards' ability to run the police force.
Baker said nearly every Sallisaw police officer attended last week's city commission meeting.
“They presented that to the council at the (Feb. 11) meeting,” Baker said.
Edwards, 51, is still the elected chief, but he has no authority over the 22 other officers.
In the meantime, Baker said city officials will conduct an investigation and audit of the police department.
Edwards had little to say about the investigation when contacted Monday by The Oklahoman.
He said his attorney has advised him not to discuss the case.
“I'm still, I guess, considered a police officer … I still have powers to arrest people and stuff,” he said. “But I have no power whatsoever to run the department.