Police revamp plan presented

Police Chief Esdron Brown presented city officials Wednesday his agenda for improving the Police Department, calling for police pay increases and installing new portable computers in police vehicles among other things.

Brown, who defeated incumbent Ken Bates in the Nov. 6 election for Port Allen police chief, offered several proposals during City Council committee meetings Wednesday night. The sessions were held shortly after the city’s new mayor, Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter, and council members were sworn into office.

Brown said installing computers in police vehicles would enable more officers to remain on patrol instead of returning to headquarters to fill out reports.

“Coming from the Sheriff’s Office, when we first got them,” Brown said, “I’d go park my car in the problem neighborhoods and type my report and that would keep crime down.”

Councilman Garry Hubble asked Brown, “You mean to tell me there are no computers in any of the units right now?”

Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence told Brown that the city had bought computers a while back for the Police Department’s fleet.

“Are you telling me they were not installed?” Lawrence wanted to know.

Brown replied that although computers were purchased and used by the department, some of the unused equipment was sent back to the manufacturer because it was too expensive to keep. Brown did not say why the computers weren’t installed in patrol cars.

“It actually was a waste,” he said. “There was a problem with the leadership.”

As for the proposed police pay hikes, council members reminded Brown that all city employees received a 2 percent salary increase in 2011.

Councilman R.J. Loupe said city employees were set to receive another 2 percent pay hike — for a total increase of 4 percent that year — but didn’t because of revenue shortfalls.

“I’m like you; they need a raise, there’s no doubt about that,” Loupe said. “And I’ll fight until my last breath for it.”

Brown also suggested designating two police officers to serve as school resource officers within the city limits.

If the Police Department’s personnel budget would prevent posting the officers in the city’s schools, Brown said, the city could use federal grants to pay for one of the designated school resource officer slots.

Brown said school officials had been asking for more police presence even before the Newtown, Conn., school shootings last month.

“I’d like to find a steady stream of money,” Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said in response to Brown’s idea, “because when grant funding dries up, that’s it.”

The new police chief said he intends to bring back structure and order within the department, re-establish neighborhood watch programs and cultivate a healthier police force through annual physical fitness tests.

Hubble called Brown’s plans “a wish list” that he thought was “great.” But Hubble told Brown that before he made any decisions on Brown’s proposals, he wants to ride along with some of the police officers during their shifts.

“I want to be out there with them because if I’m going to make a decision on this, I need to see everything that’s out there,” Hubble said.