Sulphur residents express concerns about public safety departments being understaffed

By By Natalie Stewart / American Press

SULPHUR — Several residents expressed their concerns to the Council in its Monday night meeting regarded the number of police

officers and firefighters staffing the departments and their pay.

Councilman Stuart Moss said he and Councilman Randy Favre held a community meeting several weeks ago and one concern residents

had was the local public safety departments being understaffed with an influx in people expected in the area in the coming

years.

“Basically, I think residents were a little surprised at how many officers are on the streets and what our retention rate

is for the fire and police departments,” Moss said. “At one point in time we were one of the highest paid agencies around

here, and everyone wanted to be here. Now, it seems like we’re a training ground.”

Police Chief Lewis Coats said last year the City Council approved an increase in the police department’s staff to 71, but

the department is seven people short of being fully staffed — one jailer, one dispatcher and five patrol officers.

Coats said by March, four of the seven vacant positions will be filled and in the early part of next year the department will

be looking to staff “three or four” more.

Mitch Bowers, a resident, said one of his concerns is with the expansion coming that the police department will be understaffed.

Coats said in the coming years the department will likely increase from 71 to 100, but the “nature of the beast” is no one

is applying for law enforcement jobs.

“In the early 90s when I became a police officer, public service was kind of a cool job,” he said. “You had to actually stand

in line to go to work. Now, nobody is applying.”

Residents also suggested a millage be added to Sulphur residents to be specifically allocated to the police and fire department.

“I’m not a proponent of additional

taxes, but I want my community to succeed,” Sulphur resident Mike

Baudoin said. “I want

to be safe at night. If I call the police department I want them

to be there in a timely fashion, same thing if my house catches

on fire. I think it’s important if we say we want to do a millage,

we figure out what the annual cost per tax payer would

be. I think people would be surprised at how little that money

would be to ensure that when they picked up the phone someone

is going to be there as quickly as they can.”

Janet Daigle, a resident, said it’s been 29 years since her house was burglarized.

“Within one minute of us calling (the Sulphur Police Department) we had five officers at our house,” she said. “They were

wonderful. I hesitate to think that if something like that were to happen to us today there wouldn’t be five officers out

there to respond to help us.”

Daigle said she doesn’t want to see more property taxes, but if it ensures the city is protected she stand in support of an

additional millage.

“I really think that as a community if we put this millage forth to beef the fire and police (departments) that we will pass

that,” she said.

Fire Chief Danny Dupre said the fire department has faced challenges similar to those the police department has with there

not being people applying for open positions.

Dupre said by October 2014 the Sulphur Fire Department will be six firefighters short and they expect to lose another five

people by the following October.

“We should be concerned; we should be worried,” he said. “The problem is here now. That’s the scary part. We don’t have the

expansions, we don’t have the jobs here yet and we’re struggling. Here we are trying to rebuild and we are having trouble

just replacing at the bottom level.”