Financial crisis in Town of Melville to impact police force

MELVILLE, LA (WAFB) – A police chief, who is the only full-time officer in a small St. Landry Parish town, has all but given up.

The Melville Town Council won’t fill an open spot on the force. Chief Anthony Moreau fears the public’s safety is at risk and said his hands are tied.

On the west side of the Atchafalaya River lies a small town of about 1,400 people. Melville is quiet, for the most part, but Moreau admitted it is not without its problems.

“We have a major drug problem here,” Moreau said.

These days, aside from a part-time officer who works the evening shift, Moreau is the only law enforcement officer who patrols the town.

“Any extra hours I have to cover, and my other officer has to cover. My part-time guy works 20 hours a week, but he has a full-time job during the day. So pretty much all the load is on me,” Moreau said.

The police chief said he has been accepting applications since his full-time officer quit three weeks ago. He said the town council promised they would fill the job, but when he presented a candidate to the council at Tuesday night’s meeting, they voted it down stating the applicant’s firearms certification had expired.

“I had already spoken to the training officer with the sheriff’s office and he told me to send the guy over there and he would go ahead and certify him and we’d be good to go. I told the council that. I’ve done it before,” Moreau said.

The police chief believes the decision is politically motivated and that the town’s people will suffer as a result.

“I said, ‘You are all putting the protection of the people on the back burner here.’ They have no concern for the people and their safety. If something bad happens here, we are in a lot of trouble,” Moreau said.

Mayor Erana Mayes was not available for an on-camera interview but said over the phone that the town has not had a balanced budget since 2013. She said, because of that, the town will not make any hires until the council gets a full report from its auditor.

In the meantime, she said the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office has agreed to respond with backup, if necessary.

Moreau said he plans to sit at home and collect his salary for the remainder of his term, which lasts two more years.

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