Jun 28, 2012 11:26 PM by Maddie Garrett
Some people in Youngsville are raising the question, why is there a shortage of police officers in the small city? The issue of police staffing came up Monday at a special council meeting to discuss a one cent sales tax that is dedicated to police protection.
At the meeting, Chief Earl Menard told the council he only has nine officers currently on staff, but would like to have 16 to 18 officers. But for some reason, he can't seem to fill the positions.
Pay did not seem to be an issue. Youngsville just increased new officer pay to $2,583 a month. That salary is on target with similar sized cities in Lafayette Parish. Carencro pays new officers $2,400 a month and is currently fully staffed with 25 officers. Scott pays $2,500 a month and has 25 officers on staff. They currently have one opening. And Broussard pays news officers $2,762 a month, has a staff of 27 officers with currently one opening.
While every department said officers come and go often, Youngsville seems to have a harder time filling vacancies than other departments in the parish. It faces some of the same issues as other smaller cities because it's often a starting point for young officers and doesn't offer the most exciting police work.
Still, three former Youngsville police officers told KATC they left because of a deeper problem within the department.
"It's a great small town for a police man to work, the pay is competitive to other departments, the crime rate is relatively low, and the citizens treat you fantastic," said Louie Berges. "The only problem with the department as a whole is it lacks a lot of structure."
Louie Berges worked for the Youngsville Police Department for eight years. He said he finally left because of the way officers are treated by administration.
"There's so much turmoil in the front office that it kind of bleeds down to the regular patrolmen that for a lot of new guys it just becomes too much of a headache," said Berges.
But Berges is not alone. Two other former Youngsville officers, who did not want their identities revealed, said the department is mismanaged and complained that they didn't get the training classes and certifications they requested.
"They don't re-certify officers on certain things, CPR, yearly training, what you need for legal updates," said another officer.
Chief Earl Menard declined an on camera interview, but did say that officers are sent to training and classes. However, the 2011 budget shows that only $452 was spent on training, while $6,444 was spent on conference fees. The officers said the chief and secretary are the ones who go.
"The first two years we would take all the classes, but for whatever reason that stopped," said Berges.
As for management, the Chief said his secretary is the one who handles all police reports, payroll and other duties. But the officers said it should be a senior law enforcement officer who oversees their work.
"You would think the chief of police is the person that runs the department and not your secretary," said the former Youngsville officer.
Berges added that other departments he's worked for operate quite differently.
"I've worked at two other law enforcement agencies, the structure it's night and day, for the better at the other agencies," he said.
No one at the Youngsville Police Department is facing any formal complaints or charges. The Chief said they have nothing to hide and the secretary said she's just doing her job.