Last Modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 1:29 PM
Doris Maricle // American Press email@example.com
WELSH — Police chief candidates agreed in a public forum Tuesday that reducing crime, improving community relations and continuing an interstate traffic detail are among the major issues facing the Police Department.
Incumbent Police Chief Tommy Chaisson, who is seeking re-election to a third term on Nov. 6, and challenger Marcus Crochet, a 10-year veteran of law enforcement, tackled the issues before a standing-room-only crowd at the Welsh Community Center.
“I know a major concern of most of the citizens is the rise of violent crime in our town,” Chaisson said. “I acknowledge that we have three unsolved homicides in our town in the last two years.”
Violent crime has not only increased in Welsh, but all of Southwest Louisiana, he said.
“We haven’t and will not quit working on these cases until we have solved them all or made the arrests of those responsible for these violent crimes,” he said.
Police have received help with the cases from the FBI, state Attorney General’s Office, state police, and the Jefferson Davis and Calcasieu sheriff offices, he said.
Addressing the increase in violent crimes involving guns, Chaisson said everyone has a constitutional right to bear arms, but that “unfortunately people use weapons in the wrong way and it is our job to do something about it.”
Crime needs to be addressed with a pro-active police presence in the community and an intense narcotics division to help identify and target crime, Crochet said.
“The only way we are going to identify these problems is if we get out of our cars and we get to work,” Crochet said. “We’ve got to know who the people are walking the streets at the wee hours of the morning. We have to let them know we are out there seeking them.”
He also said officer training needs to be increased to meet the high volume of crimes.
“Training is a must,” Crochet said. “To be able to perform our duty to 100 percent, we have to be on top of our game. We have to be trained, qualified and stay qualified.”
Both Chaisson and Crochet agree that the Traffic Enforcement Detail needs to continue. The program pays off-duty officers overtime for working traffic detail on Interstate 10.
“We are not taking any police officer off the streets in town and putting them on the interstate and leaving the town unprotected,” Chaisson said.
The program deters crime, brings in additional revenues to the town and gives police officers a chance to make more money, he said.
The revenues generated from TED go to the town’s general fund, which is overseen by the mayor and the council, he said. No funds from TED are dedicated to the Police Department, Chaisson said.
“The program in my eyes is an extracurricular activity for the town,” Crochet said. “It offers the police officers (a chance) to have an extra income. It also offers revenues for the town to be able to buy the tools that police officers need to perform their duties and in furthering investigations.”
He said TED will be second and sometimes third on his list. Problems within the town limits will be the first priority, he said.
Chaisson denied allegations that police officers have leaked sensitive information to the public, including to suspects in some cases, saying it was not a problem. He said he has offered to let any agency, including state police and the FBI, investigate the department.
Crochet said officers who violate a policy, procedure or law should be reprimanded or terminated depending on the severity of the matter.
“I’m not going to have that at my department because it puts people — the citizens’ lives — in jeopardy,” Crochet said.
Both candidates agreed that it is important for the police chief to work with the mayor and aldermen, and they supported drug screening for the police chief. Both said the chief’s salary should be raised from its $30,000 annual base pay.