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Lafayette Police Department

Nationwide chief search attracts four local applicants

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

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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 Sgt. 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 says a six-person selection committee will evaluate the applicants and make a recommendation to Mayor-President Josh Guillory. Serving on the committee are insurance executive Mark Romero (a member of the UL System’s board of supervisors who chaired Guillory’s police transition committee), Sheriff Mark Garber (who was on the selection committee for the Robideaux administration), and City Councilwoman Liz Hebert. Rounding out the committee are three Black appointees: Parish Councilman AB Rubin, attorney Pat Magee (director of the state attorney general’s criminal division), and retiring 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards, who is seeking a seat as city court judge. Angelle says Romero will chair the committee.

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, DiscoverPolicing.org, 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.”

‘Take them all down’ — Lafayette artist uses the Mouton statue as a canvas for a message of change

Artist Lessie LeBlanc-Melancon is using the nearly 100-year-old statue itself to project her views on the statue and what it stands for — literally

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Analysis: Lafayette will have its hands full paying for pay raises

The City-Parish Council’s decision to authorize $3.8 million in pay raises for the Lafayette Police Department was unanimous but not without complication. While the move is a victory for police, who said the new money was needed to stop a crisis in officer turnover, the added costs have put a spotlight on a weakening of the city‘s finances. And there […]

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Police pay increase wins council support but exposes city’s looming budget problems

The gist: The City-Parish Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward a $3.8 million police union backed pay plan, which would allocate the money from the city’s general fund if passed at final adoption next month. The vote and the sprawling discussion around it exposed increasing pressure on the city’s finances. 

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Get caught up, quickly: Police officers trained by the Lafayette Police Department are leaving for higher paying jobs, according to Chief Toby Aguillard, who characterized the departures as a crisis in remarks to the council. LPD lost 15 officers last year and 18 so far this year, he said. Meanwhile, the city side of Lafayette Consolidated Government is already slated to eat up $11 million of a $50 million general fund balance just to pay for regular operating expenses next year. Drawing $3.8 million in recurring expenses would deplete the general fund more quickly.  

If the council approves this pay raise, and nothing else changes, the city general fund will run out of money by 2024. LCG Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups shared a pro forma to show what will happen to the city’s general fund balance:


18-1919-2020-2121-2222-2323-24
Ending Fund Balance$45M$30M$21M$12.5M$5M-$1.4M

The city general fund will also break LCG’s fiscal policy of maintaining at least a 20% operating reserve by 2021. That means LCG will have less capacity to respond to emergencies and as a result will have to pay more to borrow money since lenders will see LCG as a riskier investment. 

These numbers were based on a best-case scenario. Toups assumed 2% per year growth revenue, which hasn’t happened in years, and effectively no growth in expenses, which isn’t likely given the many funding needs throughout LCG.

Starting pay for a city of Lafayette police officer is $34,600. Starting pay for any other city in the parish is or will soon be about $40,000, according to Aguillard. Starting pay in McKinney, Texas, where several LPD officers are said to be transferring, is $72,000. An LPD officer with 10 years of experience makes $62,000. The city of Lafayette’s police department just isn’t price competitive and as a result is at risk of continuing to lose talented officers.

The fire department is working on a new pay plan. Fire Chief Robert Benoit spoke in favor of the new pay plan for police, and expressed his hope that LPD and the council would support the fire department as well when it introduces its own proposal in the coming months. 

Increasing pay for firefighters will also cost millions of dollars per year. Council member Kevin Naquin tried unsuccessfully to amend the police’s plan to include $3 million for the fire department. 

Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux wants to increase all LCG employee salaries 5%. Last year, the council passed a 2% pay raise for employees, overriding a mayor-president’s veto. And this spring, the council approved a 2% cost-of-living increase for all LCG employees, including police if LCG’s property and sales tax revenues increase by 2% or more. If Boudreaux’s new 5% proposal passes, it would mean an increase of another few million dollars in additional annual expenses. 

All together, increasing pay for police, fire and all of LCG’s other employees could cost $10 million per year or more as proposed. If no new revenue were found or budget cuts made, the city would deplete its general fund by the end of 2022. Most other LCG employees are paid in part by the parish general fund; a government-wide pay raise would put even more pressure on a constrained parish budget. 

New revenue appears necessary to make the police plan work. Mayor-President Joel Robideaux supported increasing police pay and said it can be paid for by a mixture of fund balance, new revenue and more budget cuts. Specifically, he mentioned the possibility of bringing back red light cameras around schools and using that money to support the police pay raises. 

Boudreaux proposed two amendments to offset added costs. The first was to eliminate $726,000 budgeted for positions at the police department that are currently vacant. The second was to zero out the $1.9 million budgeted to pay for overtime at the police department. Both amendments failed after receiving significant pushback from the public.

Councilman Jared Bellard proposed eliminating all vacant positions across LCG. He advocated passionately for the need to find the money to fund this new pay plan for police, and suggested also looking at eliminating funding for non-governmental organizations.

What to watch for: A potentially electric final adoption vote on Nov. 5. The council will then determine whether to approve LPD’s new pay plan and/or tweak it further. But if Boudreaux and Bellard follow through on their proposed legislation, the council could face plans to provide 5% raises to all LCG employees and to eliminate all vacant positions across LCG. Hanging over these discussion is the tension of priorities, as councilmembers and the administration angle to find money in a shrinking budget. 

Chief Aguillard opposes Sheriff Garber’s tax. Lafayette law enforcement is at odds.

Aguillard’s decision caps off an anguished and twisting run-up to Saturday’s vote on the controversial tax. Where once the chief appeared to disagree with his rank and file, he now finds their interests aligned against the sheriff.

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