Nationwide chief search attracts four local applicants

Interim Lafayette Police Chief Scott Morgan announced in early April that Wayne Griffin (background, right) would take over PIO duties and Sgt. Nicole Oakes would assume the role of recruiter. Griffin is the only Black officer to apply for the chief's job. Image courtesy The Acadiana Advocate

The gist: Four local men are vying to replace Toby Aguillard as chief of police in Lafayette, after a nationwide search yielded no outside interest

No one in the department with a ranking above sergeant applied. Meeting the July 1 deadline for applications were Lafayette Police Sgt. Wayne Griffin, the department’s current PIO; retired Lafayette Police Lt. Guy LeBreton; retired Louisiana State Police Lt. Eric Burson; and Lafayette Police Sgt. Paul Trouard. The candidates will now have to sit for the civil service exam.

Only one Black candidate, Griffin, applied for the job, at a time of heightened national tension over systemic racism and its role in policing. Mayor-President Josh Guillory has moved to eliminate the position of retired officer Reggie Thomas, who as deputy chief was the highest ranking Black police officer ever to serve in the department.

Thomas was passed over as interim chief after Aguillard’s departure. Guillory instead chose Lt. Scott Morgan, who has 24 years with the city. Thomas initially told The Current he would seek the chief’s position, but later retired and decided to run for city marshal.

The applications were approved by the Lafayette Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service board today; the board has called on the state to set a testing date, likely next month, according to attorney Candice Hattan, who represents the board.

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Committee will evaluate candidates, make recommendations. LCG Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle confirms that a diverse, six-person selection committee with a wide range of professional experience will evaluate the applicants and make a recommendation to Mayor-President Josh Guillory. Serving on the committee are retiring 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards, who is seeking a seat as city court judge; Sheriff Mark Garber, who was on the selection committee for the Robideaux administration; City Councilwoman Liz Hebert; attorney Pat Magee, director of the state attorney general’s criminal division; insurance executive Mark Romero, a member of the UL System’s board of supervisors who chaired Guillory’s police transition committee; and Parish Councilman AB Rubin. Angelle says Romero will chair the committee. Garber, Hebert and Romero are White, and Edwards, Magee and Rubin are Black.

When Aguillard sought the job in 2016, there were 14 applicants. Aguillard was pushed out soon after Guillory took office, but briefly resisted his ouster. In an interview with The Daily Advertiser (read more about the current applicants’ backgrounds and qualifications here), Guillory appeared to hint that the current field may not yield a recommendation. “[I] told one of the committee members today that this isn’t a check-off-the-box thing. … so if they go through this committee and there are no recommendations, we’ll open it back up,” Guillory told the paper. “I’m not going to rush through on the first batch. I’m hopeful, for our people, for our administration, for our police department, that the magic person is right there in round one, and they may be,” Guillory added. “The committee may not recommend any of them, and I’ve got to respect that.”

While he pledged to hold a nationwide search after pushing Aguillard out, Guillory did say he hoped to promote from within

Given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic — not to mention mounting pressure on departments nationwide — Guillory told The Daily Advertiser he was unsure about the success of the national search.

“If they’re all internal then I don’t know how successful we were on the national search,” he said. “But I can tell you Jamie put the ads out there nationally. But they’re busy too, and that’s something we’ve got to consider. You’ve got all these other municipalities going through the same thing we’re going through, some worse than us.”

Angelle confirms the position was advertised in Police Career Finder, Police Magazine, Law Enforcement News-PoliceOne,, The Acadiana Advocate, The Baton Rouge Advocate and The New Orleans Advocate.

“I am unaware of any others at this time,” Angelle says. “There may be other police-related boards or blogs that people could have shared it on, but I haven’t heard of anything being posted elsewhere.”