Lafayette board considers police hire for meeting security

The Lafayette Parish School Board is considering hiring a police officer to provide security at its sometimes rocky and raucous board meetings.

The board plans to discuss the issue at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The board used a school resource officer — a police officer trained to work in schools — to provide security at its Feb. 13 special board meeting. The meeting was called to discuss the contentious issue of an insurance consultant’s demand letter for $200,000.

The board’s Feb. 5 closed-door meeting on that subject grew heated and ended with board member Tehmi Chassion calling Lafayette police to report that superintendent Pat Cooper allegedly grabbed and yelled at him.

Board President Hunter Beasley said the suggestion of hiring a security officer isn’t directly related to the Feb. 5 incident or recent meetings in which board members have interrupted speakers — both board members and the public.

“It’s been in the back of my mind a long time,” Beasley said. “We’ve had sheriff’s deputies come in occasionally when it’s been a hot topic meeting.”

Other public bodies, such as the Lafayette City-Parish Council, provide security — a plainclothes police officer — to help maintain order at meetings, Beasley said.

“For the most part, our meetings go well, but again, we are a public body and we have no way of doing anything if anyone interrupts a meeting,” Beasley said. “This is a public meeting, and we should not give the opportunity to anybody to disrupt the meeting” without consequences for doing so.

Cooper said a police officer’s presence to provide security at public meetings is not unusual.

“I think it’s a good idea to have security there — not so much because we worry something is going to happen, but you just never know,” Cooper said.

Beasley estimated it could cost about $100 per four-hour meeting. In 2013, meetings stretched beyond the four-hour mark.

“I’m thinking it could cost us about $2,400 over the course of a year, and I think that expenditure would be okay,” Beasley said.