SARGE: Reality Check

First there was the “era” comment. Then there came the statement Chief Dewayne White formerly of the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) was personally responsible for a gross “up-tick” of crime statistics during his administration lasting approximately 21 months.

There’s a ratio problem here. There are 645 enforcement officers in BRPD. So, think of it this way; the ratio of enforcement officers to police chief level administrators is 645:1. That means there are 645 individual officers tasked with enforcement and administrative jobs while there is ONLY ONE Chief Administrator occupying an office requiring he deal with administrative details and political contacts in the execution of his duties.

Would that seem correct?

So we must ask: just who is expected to come into contact with the average citizen and/or criminal element in the course of the day? Who will address the enforcement needs of the community in a successful or unsuccessful manner at point of contact? Will it be the Chief or a cadre of officers dedicated to public service and the elimination of crime in the streets and neighborhoods of the city?

This is about who controls the police department. It’s an obvious power struggle between the union and the Chief. It has a politician trying to leech off of the support structure afforded by a union having hundreds of members. Those union members have more hundreds of family members who vote. The final answer in this equation is obvious. The union obviously carries more sway with Mayor Holden. Votes assure Holden’s paycheck.

The Baton Rouge Police Department was founded in 1865. It has a tradition of service and exemplary efforts by individuals seeking to serve and protect. That’s NOT a cliché. Cops really do want to be of service. It’s the administrations playing politics and the people feeling neglected in some circumstances creates the gulf between the people and the servants needed to quell neighborhood crime. Occasionally a bad officer sullies the efforts of his colleagues.

It’s not difficult to understand the police feel under-appreciated. No cop is ever called because he’s wanted to come have a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies. You only get a call when a person’s life is spiraling out of control or when somebody interprets their discomfort as being greater than the rest of the world’s evaluation of the situation. The officer will be tasked with reacting to a situation, attempting to develop a solution and reporting his contact information. He’ll state step-by-step what he was told, what he said and what his efforts were to resolve the situation.

The dynamic of the encounter is reactive or secondary to the primary act which is the commission of the incident/crime. This is the street officer’s job or the administrative officer’s job when taking a complaint at the station.

The Chiefs do none of this. They administrate. They deal with payroll/overtime issues. Budgets drive them nuts. They brainstorm strategies to control crime in differing districts throughout the city. They decide on manpower utilization. They decide these things based on personnel assets available and then decide who is best capable to do what. They do Community Action/Public Relations-Community Interactions. That means schmooze with the people to get their cooperation in the neighborhood crime prevention program.

Sometimes, as we see now happening, the decisions aren’t popular. Entrenched personnel expecting special treatment might be inconvenienced and removed from more comfortable positions they feel themselves deserving of.

But these decisions should be made by a man/woman selected for their integrity to make these decisions without prejudice and based solely on the needs of the department to fulfill its chartered responsibilities and the needs of the community to be protected.

Unions shouldn’t enter into the equation. They were developed originally to combat unfair labor practices placing the uniform, enforcement officers in jeopardy. They were never meant to challenge the authority of the Chief, his/her administration or the personnel placed in superior positions on the basis of merit, time in service and qualitative testing as we’ve seen here.

Protecting the department’s dead wood stored in comfortably sacrosanct positions while they await retirement is not the union’s job.

Thanks for listening.



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