Port Allen addresses high turnover rate at Police Department

The Port Allen City Council took action Wednesday night on two measures addressing concerns about the Police Department’s high turnover rate.

The first measure gives Police Chief Esdron Brown authority to advertise the most recent vacancy within the department. The second sets a public hearing for a proposed ordinance that would require police personnel to reimburse the city for any training and equipment costs they incur as new hires if they leave the Police Department before a specified time frame.

“What’s going on, I don’t know,” at-large Councilman R.J. Loupe said Wednesday night. “We can’t keep an officer. We have to hire officers every month. I know you can’t hire 12 people in a year and a half. I know police chiefs that have been in there eight years and only had to hire six.”

Loupe made his comments during the City Council’s discussion with the Port Allen Neighborhood Watch Group, which presented the council with a list of safety concerns in their areas.

The list includes issues such as vehicles speeding through neighborhoods, ongoing drug problems and a lack of police presence around town.

Neither the police chief nor any officer with the department attended Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Councilman Garry Hubble said the idea to introduce the reimbursement ordinance was a result of a recent meeting city leaders had with the police chief.

“We discussed there was a lot of turnover and it’s not fair to taxpayers that they’re footing the bill and people up and leave and we have no recourse,” Hubble said.

Since 2011, Hubble said, the council has had to approve the hiring of 17 police officers — 12 of which occurred within the last two years.

Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain estimates the cost to train and outfit new officers at approximately $2,000 per person.

The department is authorized to fill positions for 16 patrol officers, 2 detectives, a captain and a secretary, McCain said. The police chief is elected.

Hubble proposed the council adopt an ordinance similar to the one it adopted for the fire department which requires newly employed firefighters to work for the city at least three years before they can quit without having to reimburse the city for training and equipment.

The City Council will hold the public hearing on the police department measure at its next regular meeting Aug. 13.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.