JASON ARD, LIVINGSTON PARISH CHIEF DEPUTY

Locke Meredith: Hello, I’m Locke Meredith and I’d like to invite you to join us on the next Legal Lines where our guest will be Jason Ard. He is the Chief Deputy for The Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office. Jason is going to talk to us about all the roles that one has in the Sheriffs office. He is going to talk to us about his role as a patrol officer, as a detective and as currently the Chief Deputy. So join us on the next Legal Lines with Jason Ard, Chief Deputy for The Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office.

 

Locke Meredith: Welcome to Legal Lines, I’m Locke Meredith and I’m pleased to have on the show today Jason Ard. He is The Chief Deputy for Livingston Parish. Chief, I appreciate you coming in for the show.

Jason Ard: I appreciate you having me Locke.

Locke Meredith: Just tell the folks a little bit about yourself. As I understand it basically you’ve been working since the moment you could.

Jason Ard: Yes, basically my adulthood I’ve been at the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office. I started out at a young age, some say I am still at a young age but.

Locke Meredith: What thirty eight?

Jason Ard: Yes, thirty eight but I started out right at twenty years old and I was given an opportunity by late Sheriff Odom Graves and he hired me as a prison guard at the Parish Prison and so I started my career there and just worked my way up from the bottom to the top. During my career, early on The Sheriff, Mr. Odom Graves; gave me an opportunity to move from the prison to the uniformed patrol. I took that opportunity and not long after that Willie Graves was elected Sheriff and about half thru my patrol experience and Willie called me in at the age of twenty five and told me he needed a night time supervisor.

Locke Meredith: Well let’s talk about, as I understand it you at a very young age, I think you said fifteen, you decided you wanted to check out the law enforcement thing.

Jason Ard: Yes, at fifteen years old I was a cadet, a little police cadet and they had explorer programs and we were at the Denham Springs City Police and I started getting some interest in it so I actually went there. I was actually one of the first cadet programs from Denham Springs that actually went to Gulfport which is a little explorer academy. It’s one week long and is on an Air Force base over there in Gulfport. It was you stay there, spend the night, and do PT, shooting guns and all of that. It was a really cool experience. I remember it like it was yesterday. What’s so really awesome about it is that today we actually have the explorer program and we actually send kids fourteen years and up to that same explorer program. It’s exciting to know that I had actually done that and we are actually offering that to kids as well. I knew at that age that this is something I wanted to do and of course my dad was laid off and a lot of people know about the big Ethel corporation lay off and I was around twelve years old and he, he has four boys, I have three brothers and we had to go to work. It was a struggle for us but we all worked at an early age. I remember on weekends going and cutting peoples grass and if people needed help on oil spills we would go and help. That’s what we had to do. I worked at Winn Dixie as a stock boy, as soon as I turned fifteen my mom brought me up to see the Manager and he said well I’m not really hiring and I remember my mom telling him, well no you don’t understand, My son is going to work today. And I did. I worked and helped my mom and dad put us thru high school and stuff like that. It was a struggle with us but all four of us have great careers and we all basically put ourselves and worked hard to get where we are all at today.

Locke Meredith: And so when you first started for The Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office it was for I guess the prison part of The Sheriffs Office.

Jason Ard: Yes, it was as a prison guard. We were actually responsible for all of the inmates. We had to do head counts hourly, give them medication, make sure they were fed, get them to court, transportation; maybe it might be out of the Parish for court somewhere else. Nightly watches on the outside of the prison, making sure there are no escapes going on. At the time we actually had what they called a CHASE team. It actually had bloodhounds and I served and we actually volunteered and if we had an escape or a big man hunt going on, we would go drive the vehicles to pick up the blood hounds and go search with the deputies.

Locke Meredith: And you helped them do that?

Jason Ard: Yes, it was exciting to be able to do that as a young deputy. That was something that we looked forward to because you felt like sometimes you were in prison with the inmates.

Locke Meredith: Nice to see outside of the walls huh?

Jason Ard: Nice to see outside the walls and so it was fun to have a little team like that.

Locke Meredith: And as I understand it Livingston Parish has just constructed a new prison?

Jason Ard: It did.

Locke Meredith: Explain to the folks about that.

Jason Ard: It was much needed and they were able to actually dedicate a tax that was dedicated to the new prison which we so desperately needed because we were averaging about one hundred fifty to one hundred eighty inmates, well our population is well over one hundred thousand and we were really just having to let criminals out, not being able to actually give them the sentence and then we were sending prisoners out of the Parish, which was costing the Parish money. Now we have a capacity with the new prison of about six hundred inmates. Of course we would like to have even more space but we have something now that actually helps us protect the public a lot better and we don’t have a problem keeping the beds full.

Locke Meredith: I guess that’s a good thing and a bad thing.

Jason Ard: It is a good thing and a bad thing, but we don’t have to let people that need to be in the prison out because of space.

Locke Meredith: Fantastic. And after you worked for the prison you said you became, I guess a Deputy or Road Deputy?

Jason Ard: Well there was a patrol officer and I was given the opportunity after about two and a half almost three years in the prison, they asked me to go out and be a patrol officer, patrol the streets of Livingston Parish. I was excited about it and I took on the task of Road Deputy and went out and just did everything I could to help protect the parish and started making the rounds.

Locke Meredith: I guess that’s kind of like the TJ Hooker or whatever.

Jason Ard: Yes, and I remember what was different about how we were trained then to now, this was the early nineties. We didn’t have, we had low band radios we didn’t have portable radios and when I went out it was with a training officer. He told me you know make sure when you get out on a scene, you know you don’t have a means of communication once you leave your unit. Make sure you roll your window down, hang your microphone out the window, turn your parking lights on so if you do get in a bind you can try and make it back or people that are responding to you and trying to find you will see your car. That’s why it was important to have your parking lights on. I was about twenty three years old when this was told to me and I was like “Ok”, but it was actually something that you actually learn how to talk to your citizens because if you have a disgruntled person sometimes you can’t just pull your gun out, you have to talk to them.

Locke Meredith: Diffuse the situation.

Jason Ard: Exactly. You can’t just pick a radio up and say hey I need some units over here. You had to wind up trying to get yourself back to that unit or have somebody to call for you and things of that nature. Technology has changed.

Locke Meredith: Well that’s what I was about to ask. I understand that you guys are pretty high tech now. You’ve got basically what? Video cameras in the units and you’ve got…

Jason Ard: We have everything. It almost looks like a spaceship when you sit in there. It’s, technology is great and it wasn’t long after, it was around I want to say ninety five we actually went to the high band portable radios. It was neat to be able to stand, and we just thought this was the greatest thing to ever happen, but we were able to stand in Watson and talk to the other Deputy in Springfield.

Locke Meredith: And it improved everybody’s safety.

Jason Ard: And it improved, it was just something, it was just an awesome feeling. To some it wasn’t that big of a deal but to us it was because you were able to communicate all over the Parish. It was a safety factor and we were actually starting to grow. It wasn’t long after that we started getting the laptops and we went to doing the calls over laptops. Things started growing from the radars to the equipment and just everything. We have lojack systems, which is a system that helps to find stolen vehicles. So there was so much technology that came over the next few years after Sheriff Graves took over and actually started changing the equipment and how we actually succeeded.

Locke Meredith: Well Livingston Parish is the second fastest growing Parish in the State now. You indicated well over one hundred thousand.

Jason Ard: Yes, I think right at or over one hundred twenty eight thousand. We saw a big growth right after Hurricane Katrina.

Locke Meredith: Well let’s continue this on the next segment. This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines, Chief Deputy Jason Ard, we’ll be right back.

 

Locke Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith and again pleased to have on the show today Jason Ard, he is the Chief Deputy Officer for The Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office. Again, Jason thanks for being on the show today. We were talking about how you’ve been the low man on the totem pole to the high man on the totem pole and you were explaining to the folks basically what you’ve done. You were talking about how you were a patrol officer. Tell the folks what you’ve done next.

Jason Ard: Well not long after being patrol officer about two years, Sheriff Graves called me in and I was twenty five and he said “look I’m looking for a supervisor to help run the division at night time.” So I took on that task and it was basically some of the same things other than you basically supervise your shift. You had to make decisions at two o clock in the morning and I was also responsible for bonds when people would actually want to bond out of jail. It was making sure the administration was informed of things that went on that night, any type of fatalities or homicide anything of that nature we had to make sure we communicated back to.

Locke Meredith: So you shifted a little bit from strictly a man on the front lines to I guess to more management, administrative. That was the beginning of it.

Jason Ard: Right and we were always so short with man power that I was not only a supervisor but I was also a front line patrol officer. I still had to catch calls and still had to work scenes and things of that nature. It was that I was basically the man responsible at night.

Locke Meredith: And then I understand you got promoted again to Detective.

Jason Ard: Right. I was in supervision for right at about two years and the Sheriff had an opening in investigations detective division and so he asked me if I wanted to go, which I did. I took on that role and went into investigations and actually began to work from homicide detective, to burglaries, theft, rapes, any type of sex case that they had. It was a very challenging job; it really was however it was something that I learned to like.

Locke Meredith: So this is I guess where you started to encounter some really serious crimes.

Jason Ard: You encounter serious crimes. Coming from a patrol officer because a lot of times you go to the scene, you take the initial call, and a lot of times the patrol officer doesn’t actually follow up. They actually send it to the detective division, so there are a lot of times that you don’t actually know what happened to the case. Well know I’m in the role of I get the case and now its mine. And the biggest thing, at the end of it is to make sure you get a prosecution out of it.

Locke Meredith: That’s exactly where I was going. This is extraordinarily important because you want these criminals taken off the streets and the only way that happens is if they go to court and are found guilty, and put away in the prisons.

Jason Ard: That’s right.

Locke Meredith: And if you guys don’t do your job right then they don’t go to prison because the DA doesn’t have the evidence they need.

Jason Ard: Right and not only when, a lot of what you deal with is victims. If you are the victim of a burglary, you are their only source of what’s going on. You have to keep them informed of what is going on, you have to make sure that they understand that, hey I just don’t have anything or I don’t have any evidence, I don’t have any information or I do have information. A lot of times we need to make sure that we can get these victims involved in this crime. You need them to testify, you need them to be involved in your case with you. The more you keep them informed and you let them know that you are interested then they stay interested and it helps for a better prosecution in the end.

Locke Meredith: Now you are trained, I presume there are additional training and education and classes that you have to take.

Jason Ard: Yes. We had to go to the interview and interrogation class, homicide school, basic burglary investigation, finger printing, it’s so many things involved in it and victim assistance type classes, domestic violence, and its just so many training hours and hours upon different classes.

Locke Meredith: I read somewhere about the FBI training also.

Jason Ard: Yes that was something I did later on in my career is actually go to the FBI training.

Locke Meredith: So the bottom line is it’s not only an on the street education, on the job education but there’s also formal education that is continuing.

Jason Ard: Right. A lot of these are college level courses. You get credits for them. Its continuing education. It’s something you have to do. Sheriff Graves has always been really big on sending us to training and bettering our training. He wants to make sure he offers the best. I took advantage of that and anything that I could get my hands on, I did. At the same time I was in detectives, right as I was making the transition, we were seeing an increase in drug activity.

Locke Meredith: In fact, I read that Livingston has a real Meth problem is that right?

Jason Ard: Well I wouldn’t say that we have a real meth problem but we have had some challenges with meth. During the time, we hadn’t actually seen meth yet but we had the marijuana, the crack cocaine, things like that were on the rise. We had some incidents were some Baton Rouge officers were shot and killed and things of that nature, narcotic raids so we actually started looking at developing a special response team, which is better known as a SWAT team. I actually started going to classes for that as well. I helped develop our first special response team for the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office. It got kicked off and we started doing all the narcotic raid warrants that the narcotic division had. Any type of warrant the detective division had, high risk warrant, felony arrest warrants, we actually did as the special response team. While I was in the detective division training for that, I was also training for that as well. I was getting overwhelming training experience there in the different things but we were really trying to focus a lot on trying to attack these drug dealers.

Locke Meredith: So the SWAT team, I’m trying to process what you are saying; it sounds like the number one job of the SWAT team is to go in and get somebody. Bottom line.

Jason Ard: Right. When you have a problem area, that’s the guys you send in. They go in, and basically what my job was to do, we organize this team, we train, they had twelve to fifteen hours a month they had to train extra on top of everything else. What we did was, the narcotics unit would come and say hey we have this person, this is what we have them for, whether it’s a camera buy or they have information on it, they have search warrant, he’s carrying a gun, anything of that nature, he’s selling drugs out of his house, we would get an ops plan together, we would team up, do the ops plan, and see how we were going to hit the house. We would go in, kick the door in, go in and make the arrest, put them in handcuffs, sit them all around on the couches, and then we would go outside on the outside parameter and narcotics would go in and actually do their investigation.

Locke Meredith: Wow, so you guys are basically the tip of the spear so to speak. You’re going in a real high danger event and then the other guys come in after ya’ll have secured the premises.

Jason Ard: Right. It was an adrenaline rush and it was very dangerous. That continued on and it grew. So much so that after being in investigations almost two years the Sheriff asked me to move to the training center. Not only to help with the training of all the officers and certifications of all the deputies, but also he wanted me to have full time attention to the SWAT Team because it was getting to be so demanding. We were getting called out every night. We had an aggressive narcotic unit and they did as many search warrants as they could. We would not only cater to the outside areas we would go in and do search warrants in the City of Denham Springs, Walker, French Settlement to Albany, Springfield. So all of those municipalities in the Parish we were responsible for that as well.

Locke Meredith: So you were the SWAT team for the whole parish of Livingston.

Jason Ard: Right. We also helped St. Helena and Tangipahoa Parish at the time because Tangipahoa didn’t have one. We actually took care of three parishes. We also backed up Baton Rouge at the time as well. If they had a big major incident or they were going to hit three or four houses at the same time they would call on us and we would actually go to Baton Rouge or wherever it would be to do their warrants as well.

Locke Meredith: And again, it was very important as to how that was executed because if its done improperly, whatever is seized on the site can be thrown out of the court room if its not done right.

Jason Ard: That’s right. It was challenging, it really was but it was something that was very important to the parish.

Locke Meredith: Alright, we’ll continue this on the last segment. This is Locke Meredith, Legal Lines, with Jason Ard, The Chief Deputy for Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office. We’ll be right back.

 

Locke Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines. I’m very pleased to have on the show today Jason Ard. He is Chief Deputy for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office. Again, Jason thanks for being with us. We were talking about the SWAT team and you were involved in it for what ten years? Training the SWAT officers and I loved the statistic you told me and that was that nobody was injured.

Jason Ard: We’ve had a very successful adventure with the SWAT team. We’ve had a couple of close calls but we’ve always come out on top of the incident. We didn’t have anyone ever get injured on any of our entries or anything like that so that says a whole lot. That’s what it’s all about, you want safety in the end, and you want everybody to be safe. Not only the deputies but you want even the criminals and the citizens, you want them to come out on top as well because it’s all about everyone’s safety. We went and did a lot of challenges with the SWAT team. We went and tried to test our skills with other SWAT teams in competition. We traveled and did a lot of competition stuff within the State of Louisiana. We were able to eventually work our way up to the top. In 2005, we were actually crowned the top team in the State of Louisiana.

Locke Meredith: I bet some of the big cities around here didn’t like that too much.

Jason Ard: It was fun and there was a little bit of rivalry going on but Baton Rouge City, the officers have become really close friends of ours. We got them started in the competition thing as well and now they are known as one of the or the top team in the State of Louisiana.

Locke Meredith: Is it my understanding that Livingston Parish has a lot of good communication, joint ventures with not only the local city police departments but with the State Police and the big city, Baton Rouge?

Jason Ard: Well we work well with all of them and you have to. You have to network, the criminal’s network, so we need to. We’ve always a good working relationship with the Louisiana State Police, and the surrounding agencies in which we also stay involved the Sheriffs Association; which helps the communication process and sharing information and that helps a lot too. We’ve always had a good coordination with Baton Rouge City, East Baton Rouge Sheriffs Office, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, and Ascension Parish. We’ve always had a great working relationship. During Hurricane Katrina, it really paid off.

Locke Meredith: I think you mentioned the SWAT team was called to help in New Orleans.

Jason Ard: We were actually the first agency to respond with the State Police, down to New Orleans right after Katrina. We were called by the State Police and of course you know they have to have people all over the state respond. Right after Katrina you had a lot of State Troopers trying to get their families situated before they left. Some of them had forty five minutes to a day response time. We went ahead and loaded up ten or fifteen of our SWAT members and went down to New Orleans. We stayed there for two to three days before we were actually called back to Livingston so they could get some more units down there.

Locke Meredith: What happened next? That was a good stint and then you were promoted again.

Jason Ard: I was. Not long after hurricane Katrina, of course in 2005, we started seeing a huge increase in our population. Call volume went up and things just really started happening in Livingston Parish. A lot of things started going on in Administration and getting to where they needed some help. So the Sheriff asked me to come up and help with administration from doing internal affairs investigations, news media relations and things of that nature. Not going up for a title, just going up there to help with those kinds of cases. I did so and not long after I went up there and started helping out the current administration retired and when he did so he appointed me to the Chief of Operations. We didn’t have a Chief Deputy so I still worked directly under the Sheriff and sort of doing a lot of the administration of the office.

Locke Meredith: The administration, I’m not sure that folks understand the size of the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office. It’s a big operation.

Jason Ard: It is. You have your prison, which is a total operation, so I have to make sure that all the bonding procedures are correct on all of the bonds that come through there, make sure our counts not up, so I work hand and hand with the Warden. Also, we have the detective division, which we have a Chief over that and I work hand and hand with him. We keep them informed of all investigations that are going on and answer any questions they may have. Make sure the investigations are thorough and that they are helping the witnesses, victims, and things of that nature. Also establishing a good relationship with the District Attorneys office because you have to work closely with them on cases. We also have a Criminal Patrol Division. It’s a new division which works directly under the Chief of Operations. It targets areas, which if we have a rash of burglaries these four units go out and actually target those areas and basically dig until they find out more.

Locke Meredith: Catch the bad guys.

Jason Ard: Most of those guys are SWAT members. It’s an elite team and they focus on high crime areas. Any rash of crime that we have, whether its an armed robber we are looking for, a bunch of burglaries, theft, copper theft, things like that, they will focus on that so we can get them arrested.

Locke Meredith: There’s a civil or money side to the Sheriffs Office.

Jason Ard: Right. There’s a civil side over the budget and not only that. The serving of divorce papers, the seizing of houses and vehicles and things of that nature, which falls under the Chief Civil Deputy, which at the current time is Ronnie Marsh. He makes sure that people get their paychecks. We have a little over an eighteen million dollar annual budget.

Locke Meredith: So the Sheriffs Office is spending eighteen million dollars in payroll and providing services.

Jason Ard: Right. A lot of people don’t understand its little things that affect the Sheriffs Office and our budget, like gas prices. You have units that average two hundred miles per shift. Which is a twelve hour shift. Day and night. So two units day and night that’s about two to four hundred miles that they just put on their unit. Well you start putting a hundred units out there and you go up on the gas bill the next thing you know it really hits your budget. Those are the things that you have to allot for and prepare for. It’s up and down all the time and we saw a big increase on that after Katrina.

Locke Meredith: And the funds are generated by a property tax?

Jason Ard: A property tax and sales tax. We haven’t seen a lot of that because for so many years we have been known as the bettering community. People move to Livingston Parish but they spend their money in Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa where they have malls, things of that nature. Most of the major industries are in Baton Rouge, Ascension Parish. Well Livingston our major corporation is Wal-Mart. We have two Wal-Mart’s so a half cent sales tax wasn’t a lot but it was something. Now we are seeing a lot of development in Livingston Parish and we are getting excited about it. Juban Cross is going to be a huge development for us and then it’s going to bring in some tax base that we are not used to.

Locke Meredith: You have a nice outdoor store over there too, don’t you?

Jason Ard: Right. We have the Bass Pro Shop that has come and I think the Sam’s Wholesale. So we have some things that are happening in Livingston Parish that we are excited about. We also have the motor division, which basically escorts traffic. We also have a training division to make sure all of your deputies are trained. Because some of them have to be annually certified on their firearms. They have a physical fitness test that we require them to go thru. There are a lot of things that go on in administration to make sure that everyone else is doing what they are supposed to be doing. You also have the actual administration part of it, which is at the courthouse. You have the tax office where people are coming in and paying their property tax.

Locke Meredith: Ya’ll are the ones responsible for collecting the property tax. What is that seventy million dollars I read?

Jason Ard: Yes.

Locke Meredith: And then I believe you were promoted one more time to your current position?

Jason Ard: Yes. About two years ago I was promoted to Chief Criminal Deputy.

Locke Meredith: And as I understand it you are now running for the Sheriffs Office?

Jason Ard: Yes I am.

Locke Meredith: Mr. Graves is retiring.

Jason Ard: Right.

Locke Meredith: Fantastic. Thank you Jason. I appreciate you so much for being on the show.

Jason Ard: Thank you

Locke Meredith: This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines thank you for being with us.

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