Napoleonville may act on police matter

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND  --  An Assumption Parish Sheriff's deputy patrols Napoleonville Friday. Village leaders are trying to decide whether to resurrect their Police Department or contract with the Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement in the village.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- An Assumption Parish Sheriff's deputy patrols Napoleonville Friday. Village leaders are trying to decide whether to resurrect their Police Department or contract with the Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement in the village.

After nearly two years without an active Police Department, the village of Napoleonville could make a decision as soon as Monday on the next step it takes in law enforcement.

Mayor Ron Animashaun said the village’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday and is expected to vote on a resolution that would allow the village to enter into a contract with the Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office to provide a deputy to patrol the village during certain hours of the day.

Sheriff Mike Waguespack said the Sheriff’s Office and the Napoleonville Police Department have jurisdiction in the village with the Sheriff’s Office handling the felonies in the village and the Police Department taking care of misdemeanors. Since the village’s last police chief, Roland Rodrigue, resigned in April 2011, all of the law enforcement duties have fallen upon the Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re basically handling all of the complaints,” Waguespack said.

Animashaun, who was first elected in 2006, said when he took office in early 2007 there was controversy surrounding the town’s elected police chief.

Animashaun said there were concerns about an elected official enforcing laws against people whose votes he was trying to gain as well as the idea of having an elected chief who didn’t live in the village. At the time, he said, the Board of Aldermen wanted to get rid of the Police Department and contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

However, Animashaun said that was “unfair to the people already working in the department.” Instead, he suggested moving from an elected chief to an appointed one, and the board approved. That didn’t last long, however, because he said the job was “too demanding and too little pay.” The chief’s budgeted salary was $1,500 per month.

After Rodrigue, a retired state trooper, resigned, the mayor decided not to appoint a new chief. Instead Animashaun focused on saving money and seeking grants to raise additional revenues to contract with the Sheriff’s Office. The grants haven’t come, but Animashaun said he has about $45,000 to $50,000 that he can spend on law enforcement.

Waguespack said he has provided information to the mayor on how much it would cost to hire a deputy to patrol the village after normal business hours. Right now, he said, there’s no “dedicated deputy” in Napoleonville, though there are plenty of deputies in and out all day because the department is headquartered in Napoleonville.

He said the deputy would be contracted on an “as-needed” basis, though it has not been determined if that would be in six-, eight- or 12-hour shifts.

At least one prominent resident is calling for the return of an elected police chief. State Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, said he would like to see village residents having a say again in who becomes chief.

“I have been inundated with phone calls from officials in the town as well as constituents who desire to have the Police Department revitalized to what it used to be years ago,” Brown said.

Brown said he reached out to Animashaun and the village’s three aldermen — Joyce Bell, Richard Bilello and Renard Southall — to meet and discuss a plan, then show a “united front” in bringing back the town’s Police Department. However, Brown said, he hasn’t heard back from the village’s elected officials.

“I would like the people’s voice to be heard and put the town Police Department back where it used to be, revitalized and operational,” he said. “… I think this is something the people want. I think the city will gain a lot by having the Police Department back.”

Waguespack, however, said he hasn’t heard much discussion about the issue or complaints about the lack of a Police Department.

“To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any escalation or any expression of a desire of a full-time chief in town,” Waguespack said. “Nobody’s brought that to my attention.”

Animashaun said he isn’t opposed to returning to an elected chief if that is the desire of the majority of the Board of Aldermen.

However, he is concerned about the costs necessary to run a truly successful department. In order to have a full-time elected chief as well as a couple of part-time officers, the mayor said, the village would have to spend $110,000 or $120,000 per year.

Without raising property taxes to fund the increase in the budget, that’s not a viable option, he said.

“We really just want to have a presence but not go broke trying to do it,” Animashaun said.