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

By 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.”