The Port Allen city council has once again authorized Police Chief Esdron Brown to advertise for one vacant police officer position within the city of Port Allen police department. Once the position is filled, it will be the department’s seventh hire following a reported five turnovers this year.
At the July 9 city council meeting, Councilman Garry Hubble tallied a list of turnovers that totaled 17 since 2011: one in 2011, four in 2012, seven in 2013 and five this year since Brown’s term began on Jan. 1.
“It was an exorbitant amount of turnover,” Hubble said, adding that he doesn’t know why. “I don’t know why, I don’t have that answer, I just know it’s happening,” he said. “If we’re doing something wrong let’s correct it.”
Brown, on Tuesday afternoon, said he was already short five of the allotted 16 police officers when he arrived in January. He was able to fill the positions up to capacity until the last officer left, bringing the current total to 15 police officers.
“Prior chiefs couldn’t get the people hired,” he said.
Brown said he has hired five officers who are college graduates, three locals and several who are already post-certified, meaning the city doesn’t have to foot the bill on police academy training, as post-certified don’t require extra academy training.
“From my perspective I think we’re doing great,” he said. “They should be happy that the police department is moving forward.”
Brown said he can’t disclose all the reasons behind the turnovers, but that some of it is for better pay elsewhere and some of it is for disciplinary reasons.
“The police officers are being policed,” he said.
At the April 9 city council meeting, the council approved the hiring of Daryl Sam as a police officer trainee, meaning he still had to go through police academy training before he could become a full-fledged police officer. A month later at the May 14 city council meeting, the city council authorized Brown to release Sam from employment.
CFO Audrey McCain said training costs about $1,800 per officer, not including equipment and uniforms, which Hubble said have to be fit-sized to the individual and become obsolete to the department after the individual leaves.
Hubble said, “It’s not fair to the taxpayers of our city that they are footing this bill. These people up and leave and we have no recourse on it.”
Therefore, the Port Allen city council introduced an ordinance that Hubble hopes will help curb the turnovers.
The ordinance will “require reimbursement from police personnel for training and equipment costs if they leave employment within a specified time period,” according to the July 9 meeting agenda. It will mirror an ordinance already in place for the Port Allen fire department, now under parish control, that states if a firefighter or firefighter trainee voluntarily leaves within three years of employment, respectively, that employee “shall reimburse the city for the total costs incurred and expended for his or her training, including the costs of personal protective equipment and uniforms.”
Brown was not present at the July 9 city council meeting as he was attending a chief’s conference in Baton Rouge.
“I agree with it,” Brown said of the ordinance, adding though, that the city can’t charge individuals for items the city gets backs, such as handcuffs, flashlights, vests, belts, gun holsters and tasers. “They’re just throwing out numbers but not looking at the whole scope of it.”