BREAUX BRIDGE – At the recommendation of a special citizen’s committee, the City Council Tuesday night agreed to hire former Lafayette lawman George Armbruster to help reorganize the police department.
Local businessman Johnny Raymond came forward to represent a panel appointed by Mayor Jack Dale Delhomme in the wake of a damning grand jury report last summer that, in Raymond’s words, “nearly called for the indictment of police personnel.”
The focus of the grand jury’s scorn was the performance of department’s detective bureau in a murder investigation, which it labeled “substandard, incomplete and, void of any semblance of professionalism.”
The committee, which also includes SMILE executive director Alvin Wiltz and retired finance company executive Pat Laneaux, specially recommended reducing the number of detectives on the force.
“In our discussion with professional lawmen, they were unanimous in questioning the need for four detectives in a city the size of Breaux Bridge,” Raymond said.
“We think that a reduction of that number and the transfer of some of the detectives to other duties is worthy of consideration,” he said.
“Outsourcing of this function, when the need arises, is available from other police organizations and should be considered as an option.”
The committee also recommended the department build up its patrol division and hasten the search for an assistant chief of police to manage the day-to-day operations of the force.
That job had been handled by Capt. Rollie Cantu, who retired in August.
The committee did not recommend pursuing a change from an elected chief to an appointed one, noting that the process could take as long as six years.
The committee commended Chief Charlie Thibodeaux for his cooperation during its investigation and his pledge to help institute its recommendations.
Under the city’s legislative charter, the chief has the sole responsibility for and discretion in the operation of the department.
“We stress this point because any changes to the organization or operating procedures of the police department that come out of this review requires the agreement and cooperation of the chief of police,” Raymond told the council.
“There is nothing broken here that can’t be fixed,” Raymond said.
“We do feel, however – and we feel strongly – that failure to address and correct the issues that caused the concern and the displeasure of the grand jury will eventually lead to litigation that will harm the city and result in charges of malfeasance against elected officials responsible for the safety of our citizens.”
While the chief of police controls the operations of the department, the city council holds the purse strings.
The committee, none of whom are law enforcement experts, consulted with Chief Thibodeaux, Sheriff Ronny Theriot, District Attorney Phil Haney, Assistant DA Chester Cedars, and Scott Chief of Police Chad Leger.
The members specifically recommended Armbruster, a retired law enforcement trainer and administrator who now works as a consultant and an expert witness on police procedures.