During the city of Port Allen’s swearing-in ceremony and January committee meeting, the focus shifted to what changes newly elected police chief, Esdron Brown, would implement during his term.
Port Allen’s newly elected mayor “Deedy” Slaughter walked in to a packed city hall meeting room amid applause as she made her way, for her first time, to the head chair of the desk of the mayor and city council. But once the committee meeting began, the first of meeting of the year, it was all business.
Police Chief Brown introduced, to the council, what he called “the ABCs of creating the best police department in the state.”
He said he planned to raise officers’ pay, get them training and better health coverage, and installing a fitness program. He also said he planned to update the equipment the officers have, “especially computers in the vehicles.”
After a questions raised by council member Ray Helen Lawrence, Brown said that computers were purchased for police vehicles under previous leadership at the police department, but were never installed.
“It was a problem with the leadership,” Chief Brown said. “They actually had the computers. They actually paid money for them, but they never used them, so it actually was a waste.”
He said that the department paid for computers to put inside vehicles and purchased an Air Card, a type of wireless adapter used for connecting to cellular networks. He said that the city began paying monthly fees for the Air Cards’ use, but the computers were never actually installed in vehicles.
“They had to send some of them back,” he said. “We lost a bunch of money because they didn’t install it.”
Brown, who is a former WBRSO employee, said that once computers are installed, he believes it will help prevent crime in the city limits.
“Coming from the Sheriff’s Office, when we got (computers), what I used to do… I would go park in a problem neighborhood and type my report, and (marked vehicle’s presence there) would keep crime down.”
During Brown’s address to the board, he explained that he wanted to get PAPD officers a raise, as they had not received a raise in three years.
Council member Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said that he believed all governmental employees in Port Allen received a 2% raise in 2011, a claim which was backed by council member R.J. Loupe, who was mayor at the time the raise was given.
But fire chief Rick Boudreaux said that though a 2% raise was given to government employees, the month prior to the raise, legislation was enacted that raised employees’ contribution rate for retirement.
Boudreaux said that employees at the police and fire departments went from paying 8% of their retirement to 10%.
“That’s why the police officers say they didn’t get a raise. Because one month we were paying 8%, the next month we were paying 10% of our retirement and then the next month we got a 2% raise - and it kind of made it break even,” he explained.
During Brown’s address to the council, he also stated that he planned to install resource officers in school within the city limits, and work with students and parents about crime and community. He said he wanted to bring back neighborhood watch programs and cooperate with the WBRSO in a drug task force.
“I would like to take one of the officers and assign him to the Sheriff’s Office as a joint (venture) to help clean up the streets of drugs,” he said. “Drugs are causing a lot of problems, as far as burglaries and different things around the city that we need to get in control.”
He said that he plans to work closely with the council and mayor to accomplish what he has set out to do as police chief, and said that he looks forward to bring the Port Allen Police Department’s standards to “what they’re supposed to be.”
Slaughter said she, too, looks forward to seeing the proverbial bar raised, saying “I applaud you for your efforts and your vision that you’re showing. I, too, have a passion for young people. So I’ll be making some visits to the schools also… I’ll be glad to assist you in the area of that capacity too.”
Slaughter said that she looks forward to what is to come, not only in the police department, but in the entire city of Port Allen.