Survey Says….

   
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If you tuned into the Lafayette City Council meeting yesterday evening, you probably witnessed a portion of the Comedy Hour segment with Kenneth Boudreaux (D 1/10). It was held in conjunction with agenda item number seven – “Gun Violence and Recent Legislation.” Boudreaux criticized the accomplishments that came out of the 2nd Extraordinary Session. Specifically, he addressed legislation that was signed into law by Governor Jeff Landry making Louisiana a “constitutional carry state.” Discussions were had about establishing “gun-free zones” in the City. The liberal logic that infects the minds of people like Boudreaux is the idea that people with a propensity to commit violent criminal acts with weapons will somehow abide by the law/ordinance as it pertains to not carrying a weapon. Then things quickly slowed to a screeching halt when Boudreaux mentioned recent surveys of the Lafayette Police Department.

Lafayette Police Department Survey

A survey of members of the Lafayette Police Department was conducted from February 2 through 15, 2024. The survey consisted of 125 questions covering a wide variety of topics. At this time, it is unknown why the survey was initiated or why now seemed like an appropriate time to conduct a survey. The survey was completed just ahead the start of the 2nd Extraordinary Session which focused directly on crime in our state. However, it doesn’t appear that the results of the survey were circulated to members of our legislature. If it was, then the survey was certainly not brought up during the session. A survey conducted this early in the administration of incoming Mayor-President Monique Boulet will certainly help to establish a baseline at the start of her administration of the consensus of the members of the department.

Our efforts to obtain a copy of the survey began on March 1, 2024. We received a response a week later from the law firm Neuner-Pate indicating that the Lafayette Police Department “does not have a copy of the survey and is not the custodian of the survey.” The lawyer addressing the request indicated that the LPD “does intend on making the results of the survey public upon receipt.” At that time we pointed out that our understanding was that Mr. Andre Williams was hired, directed, and paid from public funds to conduct the survey, and as such the results of that survey are public record regardless of whether the City retained a copy of the survey or not. After another week after the initial response, we were informed that the “appropriate parties” had been contacted to obtain the information. Later that afternoon we were informed that a document consisting of at least 200 pages and 1,300 comments had been received and was in the process of being redacted to remove personal identifiers and security procedure information as required by law.

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At the time of the March 19, 2024, Lafayette City Council meeting we had not yet received or had been permitted to review the survey. Despite this Councilman Boudreaux asserted that he had received the survey through a “public records request.” Chief Judith Estorge and Mayor-President Boulet were quick to point out that the document was still being reviewed by legal and had not been publicly released. We later confirmed with the attorney handling the redactions that she had no knowledge of a public records request from Boudreaux seeking the survey, which begs the question – How did Boudreaux really come into possession of the survey? And is the (unreacted) survey Boudreaux alleges to possess violate the privacy interest of the members of the Lafayette Police Department who were told they were completing an “anonymous” survey?

Survey Highlights

The whole Boudreaux situation is just another distraction. Let’s face it, thus far we have spent precious time recapping Comedy Hour instead of covering the actual results of the survey. You can go watch Boudreaux yourself if you want (fast forward to the last thirty minutes of the video), but he never gets into what is really important – the results.

A total of 323 Lafayette Police Department employees received a link to complete an “anonymous survey online.” Seventy-six (76%) of the invited employees completed the survey with about one percent (1%) of those individuals providing incomplete responses. You can view the entire survey here, but we would like to highlight some of the noteworthy responses.

Courts

A large majority (78.6%) of officers feel that the court system being too lenient has largely influenced crime rates in Lafayette over the last few years. Additionally, a majority (57.1%) of officers also felt that stricter punishment by the courts is very effective at decreasing crime. Our criminal justice system is something we have covered at length since the December 2023 report of the Violent Crime Task Force. We highlighted the four legs of our system – policing, corrections, prosecution, and courts. Following our analysis of the court system we have seen Representative Tony Bacala (R 8/10) introduced a bill (HB343) which is directly on point with our critique of the courts.

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Jail

One of the most shocking (not really) results was to the question of how much a lack of jail space has contributed to crime rates in Lafayette in the last 5 years. Over 93.8% have indicated that it has had a large influence. Recently Sheriff Mark Garber attended a meeting of the Fleur de Lis Republican Women’s Club and appeared on the Ross Report, defending his jail policies. Another local official has publicly claimed that the jail “is not safe”. Well, that is debatable. Jails by their very nature are not safe places. So, you must ask if the jail is not safe, what are we comparing it to? Some would argue that if you compare crime rates in the jail to neighborhoods of a similar size in the community the jail is far safer. What about the statistical information collected by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff in support of his accreditations, do it support the statement that the jail if “unsafe?” Or perhaps the conclusion has to do with the alleged lack of staffing within the jail. Could this be why Sheriff Garber has failed to provide any information regarding staffing in response to our January 5, 2024, public records request?

Parenting

Despite the message that having a full-time School Resource Officer in nearly every school in the parish sends, the police are not responsible for parenting your children! In fact, 71.8% of police officers who responded to the survey indicate that increased parental involvement is very effective at decreasing crime. Much more effective than youth activities. In contrast, 68.5% of police officers believe that teenage violence in Lafayette is a very serious issue. Similarly, 69.5% of police officers believe that a lack of respect has contributed to increased crime rates over the last five years.

Staffing, Benefits, and Pay

Another notable area of police concerns staffing, benefits, and pay. According to police officers, 87.0% believe it is very important that the agency strives to increase the number of sworn officers over the next few years. You may remember that the LPD reported having forty vacancies just a few weeks back. Increasing pay and benefits is also very important according to 88.1% of the officers. This is despite the members of the LPD receiving a pay raise last year. However, it should be noted that last year’s pay raise was funded with non-reoccurring funds straddling the current administration with the task of not only continuing those benefits but also looking at ways to provide more.

Police Support

Most police officers (62.1%) feel that they received moderate support from the community. While only 57.5% feel they receive the same level of support from the Mayor-President and 62.8% feel they receive the same level of support from the City Council. With recent changes in the office of the Mayor-President and the City Council, these numbers are likely to fluctuate.

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Notable Comments

Some members of the Lafayette Police Department left some memorable comments which are worth mentioning. One such comment is:

I would like for someone to look Mark Garber straight in the eyes and say “F*** you Mark Garber”. This at the moment, he is the worst problem for the Lafayette Police Department and the most likely to get us sued and imprisoned for violating people’s civil rights. I would love to cut all funding to the sheriff, “book” prisoners using our own AFIS machine, then ship them off to another corrections facility. Send our funds to another corrections facility. When we take our millions somewhere else, I bet that a**hole will be able to magically open up the jail. If not, then it is glaringly obvious that he is incapable of performing his main function.

Another is:

Putting the most qualified officers in positions, not the officer who checks a box. The days of the most qualified officer getting the job are long gone at LPD. The other issue that needs to be addressed is the Chief and Major Brown being removed. The Chief is more concerned about the public than the officers she serves. We understand as the Chief, you need to satisfy the public, however, when you completely disregard the officers, you serve it demonstrates the inability to lead or serve those under your charge. When officers perform within the color of the law, there should be zero discussion about “public perception.” The Chief of Police should provide a strong statement backing the officers under their charge. Major Brown, this is an easy issue to address. He is on the “Brady List” a Major at LPD, the same officer who went on “drop” years ago because of being in fear of being indicted, however, he beat it, yet he remains at the department, the second highest rank at the police department that serves the city of Lafayette. The same officer who receives multiple phone calls throughout the year from citizens who interact with LPD officers, requesting he intervene, and he does, is this not unethical, is this not an issue as a Major at the LPD…again, I understand this is not anonymous even though it was told to me by the Chief of Police…. if I am identified for being honest in this “anonymous” survey I would suggest the issue is far greater than what I have expressed thus far. Civil service protects the illegal activities Major Brown continues to exhibit, however, improving the LPD requires action, starting from the top, the future of this department is dependent on correcting the problem from the top down. Unfortunately, I do not have the desire, nor the time to go into more detail on the corruption, discrimination, and inability of the “administration” at LPD. If I were restricted to a certain number of words, I would say the LPD is in a constant decline that we will not recover from unless someone intervenes.

If the name Mike Brown sounds familiar it is because we filed a civil service complaint against Mr. Brown several years ago. In fact, it was a failure to investigate Mike Brown which contributed to Josh Guillory terminating former Chief Thomas Glover.

Another officer said:

I would like the Chief of Police to hold a press conference addressing the current practices of the Lafayette Sheriff’s Office turning away arrested persons and claiming that there are no beds available. This press conference should also include the current practice of a suspect being handcuffed to a bench for up to 36 hours without being booked while awaiting a bed. I would also like the D.A.’s office to be addressed and have to answer for gun and violent offender cases that are being arbitrarily nolle prossed. [COMMENT RADACTED] Our street team and patrol guys are working every day risking their lives to make these arrests. This includes our detectives, ATAC officers, K-9 officers, narcotics officers, and any other officers who contribute to making arrests. Can you imagine how it feels after fighting a suspect, making an arrest for a felony, and just releasing that person and typing a warrant for an “eventual arrest.?” I have had the drive for proactive policing taken away from me because of this reason alone. Even if a booking is possible, there’s a good chance that a suspect will have to be babysat for many hours after the arrest “awaiting a bed.

Now that the survey is complete there are only two potions. Our leaders can choose to act on the heartfelt comments and opinions of our dedicated police officers or do nothing at all.

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