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Sheriff Discusses Department, Future Plans

Photograph:  St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz receives a Rotary pennant from club member Ricky Urban. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor/Consulting Writer

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz is celebrating a 50th year in law enforcement, pleased with the cooperation of his investigative partners, the financial stability of his department and thinking that perhaps he soon might want to spend more time with his family.

Guidroz on Tuesday discussed with the Opelousas Noon Rotary Club, the operation of his department, the 21st-century issues faced by authorities and the expenses encountered by the parish in housing inmates waiting for the disposition of their cases.

During a brief interview following his discussion with Rotarians, Guidroz added that his extended family is growing and there is now a question in his mind about how much longer he wants to assist with helping solve St. Landry crime.

Guidroz said he isn’t sure at this point whether he wants to seek another term as sheriff. Voters have elected Guidroz to five consecutive terms as sheriff, a position that he said he always coveted even while working as a Louisiana state trooper.

Financially Guidroz said that as sheriff, he has never asked parish taxpayers for additional revenues, using departmental savings to help develop the $3 million St. Landry Parish Sheriff Department’s Office Complex at the end of East Grolee Street in Opelousas.

Guidroz said he created the plans for the complex, which now includes a civil and tax collection office and a fleet management building that adjoins the main departmental building.

The department, Guidroz pointed out, also includes $1 million invested in a firing range facility that is used for various law enforcement agencies and the parish jail, located across from the parish courthouse.

Expenses For Criminal Confinement
Guidroz pointed out the jail upkeep and expenses, which is normally at capacity with about 244 prisoners, is the financial responsibility of the parish. Ordinarily it costs the parish about $100,000 a month to pay for prisoner expenses, which Guidroz indicated have escalated due to the overcrowded conditions.

Since the jail is regularly full, Guidroz said the parish has had to locate prisoners elsewhere at increased costs.

In order to reduce the need for sending prisoners to facilities in other parishes, Guidroz said the parish has approved the construction of a trusty dormitory that will be located on Bellevue Street in Opelousas.

Departmental Manpower Matters
It’s becoming difficult finding individuals who want to work in law enforcement and retaining deputies in St. Landry is challenging, Guidroz said.

“Right now we are about nine or 10 short of what we need. We train (deputies), send them to the State Police Academy and then some leave for bigger departments or even become members of the state police,” Guidroz added.

Those who want to work in law enforcement require more qualifications than just walking in and filling out applications, said Guidroz.

“There is a lot of training that goes into making sure you get the right person hired. There are also extensive background checks and psychological evaluations,” Guidroz said.

Solving Parish Crime
Guidroz said the Sheriff’s Department has developed a cooperative relationship with all municipal agencies.

The District Attorney’s Office and Opelousas Police Department have worked well with his deputies, Guidroz said.

District Attorney Chad Pitre is moving the criminal docket as quickly as possible, but the extensive number of cases is something Guidroz noted needs to be addressed.

The four state district judges in the parish usually hear criminal cases once every four months. Guidroz suggested reversing that procedure, with judges attending to civil cases every four months and attending to criminal matters more often.

Another way to pursue criminal issues more quickly Guidroz said, is to hire a fifth judge for 27th Judicial District criminal cases.

“I think that right now we have a system that is working. We are also training our deputies to make good cases. There have been instances in the past where an arrest was made, but (prosecutors) were unable to make a case,” said Guidroz.

St. Landry Parish Clerk of Court Charles Jagneaux told the Rotarians that his office has initiated a computer system which allows all parish law enforcement officials an opportunity to review the progress of cases and investigations.