The four candidates for Lafayette Parish Sheriff met at The Petroleum Club Thursday to speak with members of The Rotary Club of Lafayette.
The candidates, Rick Chargois, Mark Garber, Chad Leger and John Rogers, fielded a number of questions ranging from concealed-carry permits to curbing drug crimes within the parish.
Here are some notable questions and the candidates answers.
To Chargois: What would you do to work with police chiefs within the parish to provide better public service?
With about 25 years of law enforcement experience at The Louisiana State Police, Chargois said, working with other agencies was just part of the job.
He added that he would like to expand the Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force to a regional force to combat drug crimes.
“Just like people come into Lafayette to do business, criminals come into our parish to commit crime,” he said.
To Garber: How will you work to make LPSO deputies better suited to handle people with mental illnesses?
When Garber was a police officer in Arlington, Texas, he said, his department was specifically trained for encounters with mentally ill people. He said he would apply practices learned there to the LPSO to keep the mentally ill out of jail.
“The mentally ill need to be diverted from LPCC,” he said. “It costs much less to put them in a mental care facility than in the jail.”
To Rogers: How would you work to keep incarceration rates down?
The problem, Rogers said, is that policing can be very statistic-oriented. Determining whether a person really needs to be taken off the streets and put into the correctional system will aid in putting less people in the system in the first place.
“The age of the cop in charge is over,” he said. “We have to tell them, ‘Slow down. Does this person really need to go to jail?’”
To Chargois: With LPSO’s budget around $60 million, what experience do you have with big budgets? And how are you equipped to handle such a large budget?
Chargois said while working as a trooper he was able to look at the state police budget. He said he would ensure that he surrounded himself with talented accountants.
“It’s a big business, and it takes a great staff to run it,” he said.
To Leger: How would you work to ensure people with mental illnesses are tended to?
Leger, who said he was appointed to the board that oversaw the creation of the Juvenile Assessment Center, said he’d like to see something similar for the mentally ill who have run-ins with the law.
“We’ve taken care of it on the juvenile end,” he said. “We need to see the same practice applied to the mentally ill.”
The sheriff’s office has had a program for eight years similar to the JAC Center, known as the Sheriff’s Tracking Offender Program.
The program, according to LPSO’s website, is designed for early identification of offenders’ individual needs. It also allows for placement of those into other diversion programs as a means of monitoring the offenders’ progress, or lack thereof.
To Garber: Would you be willing to open the budget to the public?
Garber said emphatically that he would open the budget for the public to view, as transparency and accountability would be tenets of his organization.
Rogers chimed in late, saying he would do the same.
“I’d run it in the Sunday paper if I could,” he said. “You could sit down, drink your coffee and read through the budget.”