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Sunday, July 14, 2019

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Lockport police chief resigns following arrest

Lockport police chief resigns following arrest

Sergeant Harrelson named interim chief

Warren Vedros, Sr., Lockport’s police chief who was re-elected to a fourth straight term last November, resigned Tuesday after his indictment two weeks ago on eight felony charges.

Mayor Ed Reinhardt had announced on the town’s Facebook page that Vedros, Sr. had given up the role as of noon that day.

At a special meeting held Wednesday, the Town Council appointed an interim chief, Sergeant David Harrelson, to temporarily replace Vedros until a special election is held.

Harrelson, who has 14 years of law enforcement experience, is planning on running for the office.

“It’s been a goal since I started 14 years ago,” he said. “I’d be lying if I told you I expected it now, but I’m prepared for it. I’ve worked my whole career for this moment. I’ve done everything I could with training, even hanging out after hours trying to learn.”

A grand jury on May 31 indicted Vedros on charges of theft, forgery, three counts of malfeasance in office and three counts of filing false public records. He was booked into the Lafourche Parish jail June 1 and released that day after posting an $80,000 bond.

The same grand jury indicted Robert Barker Jr., of Lockport, on charges of filing false public records and two counts of forgery. He was booked into the parish jail June 1 and released after posting a $30,000 bond.

According to the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, an audit in December uncovered a potential issue with the Police Department’s October 2015 purchase of an SUV. Vedros provided the auditor with council meeting minutes he’d allegedly altered, as well as documents Barker had allegedly forged.

The Sheriff’s Office said Vedros also reported several hundred dollars less than he received from a vendor for the Krewe of Apollo parade. In addition, he could not account for several thousand dollars missing from Lafourche Recreation District No. 1, which he directed.

Vedros was sworn in last year as first vice president of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police and was expected to take over as president at the annual conference, set for next month in Houma.

Fabian Blache Jr., executive director of the association, said Thibodaux Police Chief Bryan Zeringue, Houma Police Chief Dana Coleman and Golden Meadow Police Chief Reggie Pitre will now co-host the conference. An election will be held for president and other board positions.

Former Lockport Police Chief Ernest Boudreaux, who ran against Vedros last year, said he’s planning on seeking the office again.

Boudreaux said whoever is the next police chief will have to work to regain the public’s trust.

“He did the right thing for the betterment of the people in the town,” Boudreaux said. “Warren and I worked together for a long time and were friends for a long time. We’re still friends, as far as I’m concerned. ... I hate to see something like that happen in the town. It’s a big black eye on the Police Department.”

Boudreaux said he also put in his name to be interim chief.

Lockport’s town council heard from supporters of both candidates before voting.

Councilwoman Sharon Robichaux Guidry did not attend the meeting. Councilwoman Bobbie Morris Galjour abstained from voting, saying there wasn’t enough time to get input from constituents.

The other councilmen, Stephen Baudoin, Wayne Bourgeois and Rodney Hartman, all voted for Harrelson. Though they said both candidates were qualified, all three cited continuity as the primary reason for choosing Harrelson.

“He’s already inside the department,” Bourgeois said. “I just personally felt that the transition would be a little easier. If it was filling the remainder of the term, which is three and a half years, it would have been different. To go from now to October, which is approximately four months, I think transitioning an outsider in would have possibly stagnated the department. And that’s not what we need right now.”

Information from: The Daily Comet.