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Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats. (American Press Archives)

Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats. (American Press Archives)

Coats talks about his first year as Sulphur's Police Chief

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 02, 2013 7:43 PM

By Natalie Stewart / American Press

Looking back on 2012 for the Sulphur Police Department, Chief Lewis Coats said he “inherited a gold mine,” when he took his post to lead the department.

Coats completed his first year leading the department in November. He was sworn in Nov. 22, 2011 when the 180-day term of provisional Chief Mel Estess expired.

Estess filled in when Chief Chris Abrahams was demoted to captain for violating civil service law.

“Honestly, I didn’t face any real big challenges with the department because the Sulphur Police Department was a great department when I became chief,” Coats told the American Press on Wednesday. “It was a functioning department when I started. Everyone had a job and they did, and still do, their jobs to the best of their abilities. I really did just inherit a gold mine and I’m just trying to fill the shoes of previous administrators who were here. It’s because of them and what they put in place that my job has been made a lot easier.”

Coats said a challenge department-wide has been being short-handed, but the City Council’s approval to amend the city’s budget will allow for the hiring of three police officer this year.

“While being short-handed has been a challenge, everyone has really stepped up from administration on down to fill the gaps,” he said. “Everyone works hard to prevent crime and when a crime is committed and we are having to react everyone works hard to solve that crime and make an arrest.”

Coats said some accomplishments made by the department in Sulphur are the crack-down on the number of meth labs; the department’s work also helped clear by arrest 100 percent of the robberies committed at local financial institutions.

He said initially the police department saw a “large number” of meth labs, but due to officer training, the department was able to stay on top of the problem.

“We train our officers to recognize what the precursors of meth labs are and it has really proven to work for us so we will continue doing that and educating officers,” he said. “Criminals are always finding new ways to make meth labs and new products to use, so we make sure that officers are educated and trained to recognize these things so that we can stay on top of the problem.”

Coats said another accomplishment for the department is ending the year with no cases of robberies of a financial institution left unsolved.

“I am proud to say that all of the robbery cases we had at financial institutions have been solved through efforts of the department working with local law enforcement agencies, state agencies and federal agencies,” he said. “We have cleared and solved every one of those. We were able to identify the persons involved and make arrests.”

Coats said there were about six robberies of financial institutions in Sulphur in 2012.

Under Coats, the department also staffed its evidence division, which was neglected, with two officers.

“The two officers I have put in that division are learning every day; they are expanding their knowledge and skills,” he said. “They are really assisting the detective and investigative divisions in collecting evidence.”

Coats said before the evidence division was staffed, detectives had to collect evidence themselves and conduct an investigation.

“This cuts their jobs in half and frees them up to focus on an investigation,” he added.

Coats said two of his main goals for 2013 are to have the department interact more with the public and see construction begin on a training facility.

He said previous administrators and city mayors allowed the department to set aside money for a training facility to be built and used by the police department.

“Mayor (Chris) Duncan and the City Council members are actively looking for property to make that happen,” Coats said. “This year, I am hoping that we can move forward with that idea and those plans and actually start construction on a facility. It will greatly benefit us as well as the residents.”

Coats said with his effort to have the department in the public interacting more he hopes to maintain respect from residents as well as keep them informed of what the department is doing.

“The residents of Sulphur should feel safe because we really do have a great department,” he said. “We have a great city administration from the mayor all the way down.”

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