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Assistant District Attorney Alisa Gothreaux addresses parish law enforcement.

BOBBY ARDOIN

Editor/Consulting Writer

St. Landry Parish law enforcement agencies can now begin compiling wish lists for sharing $1.8 million in federal spending that will be used for obtaining updated equipment.

Representatives from 11 St. Landry municipalities, two city marshals’ offices and the Sheriff Department assembled in the parish government meeting room Thursday for the announcement of  the public safety revenue windfall.

“This money is going to be really important, especially for the small departments. Right now just a walkie-talkie costs somewhere around two thousand, so this will help us purchase what we need,” said Opelousas City Marshal Paul Mouton.

Parish president Jessie Bellard, who was able to obtain the law enforcement funding for technology and equipment enhancements through the office of U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, said the money appropriated to the local agencies will be available beginning this summer.

The funding request from St. Landry,included in the federal Community Funding Project, was submitted by Cassidy to the Senate Appropriations Committee in April, 2023.

President Joe Biden signed the bill this month, which means the revenue contained in the Community Funding Bill is currently eligible to be distributed, said Bellard, who is calling the appropriation the St. Landry Parish Law Enforcement Technology and Equipment initiative.

Bellard said parish Emergency Preparedness Director Van Reed will receive an inventory list for items such as in-car cameras, body cameras, radios, tasers, satellite communications, thermal imaging equipment and other requests from local law enforcement and send the requests to federal officials who will subsequently provide funding approvals for the purchases.

“All of our law enforcement departments can now pay for items such as radio, cameras and other necessities for investigation that they would otherwise have to spend and pay for other things that they might need,” Bellard said.

Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said law enforcement agencies now require more intricate technology to fight crime.

“Technology has become the friend of law enforcement. We welcome this, because of what it is going to do for St. Landry Parish,” Guidroz noted.

Bellard said that his annual trips that involve meeting with federal officials have become beneficial.

“Last year the parish received $2.3 million for the (parish) airport from Clay Higgins and now we have Senator Cassidy calling (the parish) for money that is available for law enforcement. That is why we go to D.C. now on a regular basis and speak to people who can help us.

“This ($1.8 million) is not a grant. It is part of an appropriations bill and with our connections now in Washington, we are able to make requests like the one we are hearing about (on Thursday). To get these revenues you have to dream big and that is what we are doing,” Bellard said.