GONZALES — The three-man race for police chief of the city of Gonzales ultimately comes down to leadership, the candidates say.
Who are the city’s residents confident in to direct and manage the city’s police force?
The incumbent said he’s shown during the past four years that he’s the right man for the job, while his two challengers believe it’s time for a new leader.
The election will be held Nov. 6. Early voting is Tuesday through Oct. 30.
Democrat Sherman Jackson, who is nearing the end of his first term as police chief, touted his record throughout the past four years as the reason Gonzales voters should give him another term.
Jackson said the violent crime rate in the city has decreased, the visibility of officers in the community has increased and the city’s police force “has all the tools to do their job.” Of the three candidates, Jackson said, he’s the one with experience handling the police budget, creating a plan to enhance residents’ quality of life and communicating problems with residents.
“I’ve done everything possible to make the city better,” Jackson said. “I’ve done everything by the book, run an ethical department and remain approachable.”
His two challengers, Democrat Duane Carpenter and Republican Glynn LeBlanc, attacked Jackson’s ability to lead the Police Department.
“I would bring integrity and honor back to the office,” said Carpenter, who resigned in June after 18 years as a Gonzales police officer to run for chief. “I don’t think the chief has integrity.”
Carpenter said he’s known Jackson for 15 years, and the two had been “best friends” until a November incident in which a vehicle carrying Jackson and six off-duty police officers led police on a low-speed chase through the city.
The chase started when the vehicle containing the officers was clocked speeding in Gonzales, but did not stop because the officers thought it was a prank, Jackson has said. Jackson has described the incident as a misunderstanding and no charges were filed.
Since that incident, their relationship deteriorated, Carpenter said, leading to his resignation in June after Jackson accused Carpenter of violating civil service regulations by ordering signs touting his candidacy for police chief.
“There’s no doubt in my mind Sherman Jackson was going to terminate me,” Carpenter said. “I didn’t think it was a violation of civil service. If it was, shame on me because I didn’t know.”
Carpenter said he would be “a working chief,” wearing a uniform and driving a marked vehicle, working to re-earn the public’s trust for the chief’s office. In addition, he said, he would work to increase training for officers, specifically on ethics and leadership, and bring a K-9 program to combat the city’s drug problem.
“I love this city and want to make a difference,” Carpenter said.
LeBlanc, who spent eight years as a Gonzales police officer and 11 years at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he thought about running for the office four years ago.
“I know what’s going on at the Police Department and don’t like how it’s being managed,” LeBlanc said.
His top priorities for the office are to bring quality leadership that doesn’t feature favoritism and a quarterly training program similar to the one used by the Sheriff’s Office that would focus on ethics, domestic violence, active shooters and other areas.
LeBlanc said he is the only candidate that has the right mixture of education and experience to lead the department.
“I not only know what needs to be done, I know how to get it done,” LeBlanc said.