Sheriff Mark Herford values interaction with community

Beauregard Parish Sheriff Mark Herford admits he still finds it hard to sit behind a desk in his civil office. Not quite two years into his new position, the dedicated former detective looks for any opportunity to get out into the community and interact with the residents of his parish. Last week, that opportunity came in the form of reading to elementary students at KR Hanchey when he participated in the national Read Across America Week campaign.

“It was a very fun experience. I love being around kids and I think right now it’s more important than ever to reach out to the kids in the community and provide them with positive experiences with law enforcement. I hope to make a positive impression that shows kids that people in law enforcement, especially here in Beauregard Parish, care about them and their futures,” Herford stated.

Herford has always considered himself a servant of the community in any position he has held in law enforcement. He began his career in law enforcement at BPSO in Jan. 1992 under Sheriff Bolivar Bishop. While Herford credits his parents with instilling the moral values he still acts by, he said Sheriff Bishop was a heavy influence in his professional life.

“Sheriff Bishop gave me an opportunity at a young age to better myself, and I will always be grateful that he gave me the opportunity to learn more within this profession. I wouldn’t be who I for him,” Herford stated.

In 1994, Herford moved with his family to Monroe while his wife attended a pharmacy school program. There, he worked under Police Chief Joe Stewart and was assigned to a multi-jurisdictional team specializing in narcotics. He learned the intricacies of narcotics investigations and the effects those crimes can have on local communities.

“There’s a lot more to narcotics than just the drugs. When you have a rise in drug activity, you also have a rise in other crimes like property crimes and theft, and so when you put a stop to the drug activity you are helping everyone else in the community. That’s really what is at the heart of narcotics work,” Herford stated.

In 1999, Herford returned to Beauregard Parish and brought his narcotic skills to BPSO. In the year 2000, he was put on the Narcotics Task Force and he quickly moved up through the ranks in the detectives division. In 2003, he became one of only 1 percent of law enforcement officers to be accepted into the FBI National Academy and in December that year he was made Chief of Detectives at BPSO. He held that position until he made the move to run for sheriff in 2019, a decision that he said he even surprised himself with.

“It was never a goal I had for myself; I never had a plan laid out to one day run. It wasn’t until I learned that Sheriff (Ricky) Moses was retiring that for the first time I thought ‘well, maybe I should give this a shot’ and the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I became with the idea,” he stated.

Herford centered his campaign on fulfilling the needs that had long been requested by the community. He passed out “punch cards” to residents with a list of goals and he insisted on being held accountable for completing each one if they elected him.

“My word is the most valuable thing I have and I always do my absolute best to follow through on any promise I make. I wanted people to know I expected them to hold me accountable,” Herford stated.

Today, Herford looks over that list and humbly checks off nearly every one. He has increased patrols and opened substations in areas of the parish that previously experienced a lack of police presence and dangerously long response times. He has also increased personnel numbers within the Narcotics Task Force. Falling back on his training and extensive experience, Herford said he knew first-hand the incredible needs that department had, and how badly it was needed in the parish. Within one year of his swearing in, narcotics-related arrests had increased in Beauregard Parish by nearly 50 percent.

In June 2021, Herford was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to the Louisiana Drug Control and Violent Crime Police Board.

While those are proud accomplishments in and of themselves, they are all the more impressive given the challenges Herford experienced in his first year and a half as sheriff. He was sworn in the summer of 2020, in the heat of a global pandemic, followed by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, an unprecedented flood event and then a winter ice storm.

“I could never have dreamed the things that this parish would face in one year, and certainly not my first year as sheriff, but I give so much credit to the men and women that work for me because we all worked together to get through it. I could not have done it were it not for them,” he stated.

Internally, Herford has strived to let his deputies and employees know they are appreciated. He has provided pay raises across the board and returned a rank system that he believes has increased morale. He is also focused on providing training opportunities to allow his deputies to become some of the mostly highly-capable deputies in the area.

Still, he readily admits there is much work left to be done.

“There is always room for improvement. I even keep a notepad on my bedside table because some nights I can’t sleep and I try to jot down every idea that comes to mind that might improve the lives of residents in Beauregard Parish,” he stated.

“I do believe that there are a lot of good things coming for the parish, and now that Covid restrictions have relaxed I look forward to meeting with the community more to learn of any needs I’m not aware of. Most importantly, I hope that people realize that I truly do care about everyone; I’m everyone’s sheriff and don’t have any personal preference for one community over another. That’s why I keep an open door policy. If there is anything I can do for anyone I want to hear about it.”

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