Acadia Parish Sheriff KP Gibson, left photo, and Crowley Chief of Police Jimmy Broussard, right photo, discuss the goings-on of their agencies since taking office last year, and their future plans, during the Crowley Chamber of Commerce’s sold out Network@Noon event Friday.
Local lawmen talk progress
In front of the full banquet room at Rice Palace Friday, Sheriff KP Gibson and Crowley Chief of Police Jimmy Broussard came to a very simple agreement: their first 8 months in their new law enforcement capacities have been a whirlwind of excitement. And, it has them anxious for the public to see what they have in store next.
Friday, both men were the keynote speakers for the Crowley Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly Network @ Noon event. Gibson spoke first.
“It’s been a very exciting 8 months,” he said. “The time has flown by.”
Since taking office, Gibson has aimed to treat the sheriff’s office similar to the way he treated his prior office – Crowley chief of police – and treat the law enforcement role as a business, which means his biggest priority is efficiently running the office for the parish’s customers (the residents).
In that, he learned what customers of the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office wanted most when he was running for the position last fall: better response times.
To answer that call, Gibson has put several plans into motion. First, he has challenged the current four patrolmen per shift to constantly be patrolling and to hit the areas that need it most, thus, without breaking any laws allowing deputies to have better response times. He has also enacted a new Crime Suppression Unit. This unit focuses on one area and one crime wave at a time, such as the recent focus and arrest (as announced by Gibson) of a crawfish thief in the northern part of the parish. The assailant not only confessed on the captured crime, but admitted that he had been stealing crawfish from that area for five years. With the unit focusing on specific crimes, patrol deputies are able to focus on regular calls that come into the sheriff’s office.
The third system put into place was Gibson’s full evaluation of the department as he entered the position. He reviewed each employees job, and, in some cases, didn’t replace sheriff’s office employees that were retiring and he even combined a few jobs which freed up a bit of taxpayer dollars to add new patrolmen down the road. That is where the fourth the system comes into play. Gibson explained Friday that one of his campaign promises should be officially coming to fruition this summer when the number of patrolling deputies nearly doubles each shift (going from four to seven). The first three systems have been necessary, however, to make sure the fourth could happen and make sure all the new hires could be properly trained.
The second big point of emphasis Gibson made fell to the training his department is receiving and how he has opened his doors to also training other municipalities. By extension, that has been a big part of the ongoing cooperation push between agencies Gibson has made since becoming sheriff.
An example of this cooperation came just the night before, when the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office, which had been searching for a non-compliant sex offender for some time called upon the Crowley Police Department to help serve the warrant and arrest the individual.
Other examples of the cooperation also include the monthly meetings held between the sheriff’s office and the chiefs of police throughout Acadia. Those meetings have served as an open format for chiefs to air out issues and talk about cooperative plans moving forward. It is from meetings like that that an idea moving forward could be beneficial to all of Acadia Parish’s law enforcers – a system that houses all of the municipalities warrants. That means if a man wanted by the Iota Police Department has a warrant out in Iota, an Acadia Parish Sheriff’s deputy that stops the man in Duson would be able to search for all known warrants for the man.
Another example of the cooperation will be able to be seen at this year’s Church Point Mardi Gras. The popular event has grown in size over the years and can provide several issues. So much so that in recent years, there has been backlash toward the event and a minor movement to have it disbanded. Gibson stated that the sheriff’s office will be providing backup for this year’s event in hopes that Church Point Mardi Gras can continue.
Outside of the cooperative effort, Gibson urged those in attendance to visit the sheriff’s office’s website – apso.org – for a lot of useful information. He added that the sheriff’s office is also looking at creating a registry for those families that have someone who is mentally handicapped or someone who faces mental health issues. This database would make sure that APSO deputies know when they go to a home if someone is not answering them or acting differently if he or she may not be able to fully cooperate, for example. He also announced that in March, the sheriff’s office will release its first annual report with a big focus being on the many divisions in the sheriff’s office of Acadia.
At the end of the day, however, Gibson’s biggest concern with any of his decisions is serving the people he was elected to serve.
“I want to be sure we are spending your money the right way,” he said. “We want to keep you in the loop.
“I want to invite anyone who has never been to visit the sheriff’s office to see what is going on.”
“Tell me your concerns,” he continued. “If you have an idea, I’m always open to new, fresh ideas.
“It’s your sheriff’s department, not mine.”
Broussard spoke next and echoed several sentiments of his predecessor and complimenting him as well.
“We really are working together,” he said.
Broussard spoke of the “baptism by fire” that he faced in Crowley just one month after taking office: the historic flood. But it was then that he said the area truly could see how much its law enforcement loves its city.
“I’m humbled by and I pray for the men in blue who serve this city every night,” said Broussard. “They show such dedication and a heart for this city.
“The flood was a great example of that heart.”
He, like Gibson, has challenged his officers to go out and be a part of the community. While Gibson has implemented a program that gets deputies to put in community hours each month, Broussard has talked to his officers about visiting with the children and people of the community and get to know the men, women and children they serve.
“The other day I received a call from a citizen. They said, ‘I don’t know if you know this but some of your officers are playing basketball with children at the Third Street Park’.” Broussard explained that he was unaware but appreciated the call. It is calls like that, which he has gotten on several occasions since he took office that let him know his officers are taking that challenge to heart.
Speaking of some of the systems he has put in place to combat crime, Broussard lauded the implementation of the Citizens Advisory Board and the revitalization of the Street Crimes Unit.
Broussard implemented the advisory board as a way of hearing from citizens from throughout the city of Crowley on a regimented basis. He explained that while he and his officers cannot be everywhere all the time, the board provides great insight into the city, its needs and its weaknesses and strengths. The board serves as the department’s eyes and ears. It also serves as some of its biggest advocates as well. From the advisory board, the city has also seen the return of a neighborhood watch program in West Crowley and soon in South Crowley as well.
Regarding the Street Crimes Unit, Broussard has been proud of the successes so far. The unit features, among other things, two officers who work a specific and secret schedule that is known only to a few in the department. And, recently, Broussard heard from one of those officers possibly the best news in some time for Crowley residents.
“My officer said, ‘We’re trying, but it’s been slow’. That’s good news, because that means [the drug dealers] are sitting on their product.”
If that continues, that means drug dealers are losing money and, hopefully, given enough time, may move along to another area to push their product elsewhere.
“Let’s hope somewhere like Lafayette Parish – get them out of your jurisdiction, too, sheriff,” said Broussard with a laugh to Gibson.
Broussard added that while the SCU has had great success since its reactivation, he also points to several other things in the community pushing that along, including the PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) movement.
“It has been a tremendous asset,” said Broussard during the question and answer portion. “And it has been great to see the whole community come together.
“Crowley is made up of three distinct communities, and that’s not a bad thing, but for them to all come together.
“It also shows the criminal element that the community wants to take our city back.”
Other improvements Broussard hit on include the potential of buying laptops for units that will allow officers to swipe driver’s licenses, print tickets and upload the tickets to the court system almost immediately. He also spoke about the training and potential usage of pepper spray guns instead of Tasers in the future.
Like Gibson, Broussard explained he, too, was open to visitors and ideas.
“If you have never been to the police department, first, congratulations, and second, I want to welcome you to stop by,” he said.
The questions and answer portion of the event provided even more insight into the inner-workings of the department.
When asked about checks and balances in place to avoid theft, which came to light last year from the sheriff’s office’s former administration, both men explained they had firm systems in place. Gibson, in fact, explained that APSO had hired a new chief financial officer that is also a CPA, thus can provide monthly audits to ensure that if someone tries to steal from the sheriff’s office, he or she would be found quickly.
Regarding open carry versus concealed carry, both also agreed that it is fortunate to live in a country that offers its citizens the rights to bear arms but that they both favored concealed carry permitting most of all.
“Those who go through the process of registering, going through the evaluations and the courses to carry a gun are not the ones we worry about,” said Gibson.
“For the most part, the concealed carry permitted individuals are fine,” said Broussard.
Those who openly carry guns, however, that do not go through the special courses and extra evaluations, however, do make both men raise eyebrows and cause some concern.
It was also during that time that Broussard announced a very interesting tidbit of information, a recent case solved by the police department has garnered some televised attention as Broussard’s office received a phone call from the Oxygen Network. The case will be featured on one of its investigative shows in the future, Broussard explained.