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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Lafourche Sheriff and others meet with community members to discuss safety

Lafourche Sheriff and others meet with community members to discuss safety

On July 21, a group of people met at the Larose Civic Center discussing current police and community relations, police officer deaths and shootings, and public safety.

The meeting was a brainstorming, informational session created to be a pro-active step in ensuring Lafourche Parish residents’ and officers’ peace of mind and safety.

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre, LPSO Major Renee Brinkley, Golden Meadow Police Department Chief Reggie Pitre, and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Richard agreed to meet with a control group comprised of local citizens.

The meeting was organized by Larose resident Devin Lewis.

Lewis, the son of a retired police officer, pooled an audience of people consisting of various races, socioeconomic statuses, education levels and ages who all had the common goal of keeping Lafourche Parish safe and developing a positive rapport between community members and police officers.

“We have the notion that just because of where we live, the things we see in the news won’t happen to us. Through social media, I’m seeing that people are entrenched on their prospective sides and are worried about our community,” said Lewis.

Various questions were posed to the panel of officials so that they could explain police procedures and various other aspects of law enforcement.

The panel was asked to discuss what causes an officer to deem an individual aggressive or combative.

“It, of course, depends on the situation,” said Sheriff Webre. “If we give an order to get out of the vehicle and they don’t, that is non-compliance. If we try to handcuff someone and they fight us, that is non-compliance.”

The panel agreed that staying calm, mutual respect and listening to the officers’ orders were the best ways to keep the situation from escalating.

The Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office is an accredited agency so every response to resistance (the LPSO’s wording for use of force) is reviewed after the situation is handled. Then if action is needed, or more training is needed for the officer, it is done based on the situation that was at hand. Every case, situation, etc. is logged into a database for documentation.

“If you don’t work for the Sheriff’s office, you may not realize the things we train and re-train our officers on,” said Major Brinkley. “We need to not accept the current climate. For every bad story you here, there are 1,000 good ones that you never hear about.”

When asked how an officer decides to use a gun, pepper spray or tasers, Chief Pitre said that the response to resistance training entitles the officer to be one level above what they are being countered with.

“We do not want to use lethal force. That is the last thing we want to do,” said Pitre.

According to both the Sheriff and Chief Pitre, when pulled over for a traffic violation, the perpetrator should generally get out of the car, calmly with hands in plain sight. Then, you should follow the police officer’s order of what to do next.

The LPSO is in the process of formalizing a policy regarding people with a conceal and carry permit so the general public will know what to expect when pulled over.

“The key is letting the officer know that you have a conceal, carry license and a gun and keep your hands in plain sight while waiting for the officer’s instructions on how he or she will disarm you,” said Webre.

Webre went on to state that since the Dallas and Baton Rouge officer murders, he now requires two officers to respond to calls that are tense situations such as domestic abuse, violent crimes, etc.

“Some people may think that we are being more aggressive when they see two officers now in a patrol unit. But we are doing this to keep our officers safe,” said Brinkley.

An audience member stated that when he was a child, police officers were like super heroes. He went on to say that now, he often hears parents say things like, “If you don’t listen I’m gonna call the police on you.”

“In the 1980s, crime was at its highest. The president put thousands more officers in the streets and outreach programs like D.A.R.E., McGruff the Crime Dog, etc., were developed,” said Webre. “Kids were having positive interactions with police officers and it helped to boost moral. Then came the September 11 attacks.”

“The nation’s focus came from Homeland Security and all of those outreach programs were put on the back burner. In many major cities, the police forces got caught up in the threat of terrorism and turned away from positive examples, community relations, etc.,” said Webre.

“We all need to work on de-escalation and improving our society. This begins in our homes, churches and social situations where we can share with one another and explain the things we’ve discussed at this meeting tonight,” said A.D.A. Richard. “We need to correct misperceptions.”

All involved parties at the meeting were open to the idea of doing a larger scale meeting in the future to explain some of the misconceptions about law enforcement and other agencies within our parish.

“We need to be the voice and let people know in the hood, on the streets, in our community that police officers aren’t out to get them. They’re here to enforce the law and we all have to do our part to keep our community safe,” said Lewis.

“In Lafourche, all of our various agencies work together. Citizens and officers need to have mutual respect so things can go smoothly. Even if you messed up and you’re going to be arrested for doing something wrong, it’s not the end of the road. Don’t make the situation worse for yourself. We’re not out to get you; we’re just doing our job and enforcing the law. We’re people too,” said Pitre.

A great way to introduce children and community members to the positive side of law enforcement is to attend a Night Out Against Crime block party. Lafourche will celebrate with events on Tuesday, August 2 from 6 – 9 p.m. and will feature food, fun, and games.

Visit and the LPSO facebook page where you can view a share-able graphic with all area Night Out locations.