SID GAUTREAUX, EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH SHERIFF, DISCUSSES THE THREE MAIN ASPECTS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT: CRIMINAL; CIVIL; AND PRISON

Legal Lines

With Locke Meredith

Special Guest EBR Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux

06/02/11

 

Mr. Meredith: Hello I’m Locke Meredith, and I’d like to invite you to join me on the next Legal Lines, where we are very pleased to have with us on the show Sid Gautreaux, He’s the Sheriff for East Baton Rouge Parish, and Sid’s going to talk to us about the three hats he wears. He wears a criminal hat, a civil law enforcement hat and he also wears a prison hat. He also wanted me to make sure that supporters knew that he very much appreciates their support and that he is no intention’s of running for mayor. So join me on the next legal lines, with Sid Gautreaux.

 

Mr. Meredith: Welcome to legal lines, I’m Locke Meredith and I’m very pleased to have on the show today, the Sheriff for East Baton Rouge Parish Sid Gautreaux. Sid, great to see you.

Sid Gautreaux: Locke, good seeing you, thanks for having me.

Mr. Meredith: Well I appreciate you coming back and talking to the folks. Let’s kind of dive into the three hats that you wear as Sheriff. Basically, as I understand it, it’s kind of a criminal hat, law enforcement hat, the civil hat, which is dealing with the court systems and property tax.

And then you have the prison hat, is that right?

Sid Gautreaux: That’s exactly right, you have the criminal division, the civil division and then we have corrections, so and all three are separate entities, but each of them are vitally important to the overall operations of the department.

Mr. Meredith: So it’s almost like you’re an administrator of three separate business’s or corporations and they’re all dealing with different things.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s exactly right, and you know I learned a long time ago that the key to success is putting the right people in the right position and I’ve been very blessed within each one of those divisions to have some great people at the head on of each one. You know, I’ve got Bobby Callendar he’s my colonel and Ralph Williams my lieutenant colonel in the criminal office. So that’s taken care of there. Over in the civil office, I was fortunate enough to get Steve Hymel, who was fifteen years deputy director of finance for the Department of Public Safety, He’s my chief civil deputy, and of course I went out and got a twenty-five year veteran in the corrections field from the states corrections Warden Dennis Grimes. He was associate warden, I mean assistant warden at Dixon and he’s out at the prison.

Mr. Meredith: You’ve got a lot of expertise in a lot of different fields. Well, lets talk about the law enforcement hat first. And then we will talk about the other two after this, but you know I was reading business report and they did some kind of survey and its talking about folks are willing to spend some money, in fact I think it was in the context of would you support a bond proposal. And Folks actually indicated, which frankly surprised me, that they were willing to spend some money to address infrastructure and part of that being crime. So lets talk to folks about that and explain to them what your jurisdiction is versus say the city police.

Sid Gautreaux: Well as Sheriff, under the State Constitution, I’m the chief law enforcement officer agent for the entire parish, so our office, the Sheriffs office has the jurisdiction through out the entire parish. Our primary concern is with the, unincorporated areas of the parish. Because we are the only law enforcement they have. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be equally concerned with what’s taking place in Baton Rouge, Baker, Zachary, wherever. Because it effects all of us and I have a responsibility to the public to address all of it. So we work together, hand in hand, with all of the other agencies. We’ve started up a lot of mischief since we’ve been in office. Multi agency initiatives, where we work together and bring agencies from both State, Federal and local levels together.

Mr. Meredith: I know when I was a kid, I used to think you know, if I was outside the city limits, Baton Rouge City policeman could not give me a ticket and vice versa if I was in the..that’s really not true is it?

Sid Gautreaux: Baton Rouge city’s jurisdiction and their authority lies within the incorporated limits of Baton Rouge City. Same thing with Baker, same thing with Zachary. And they really, they can’t give tickets outside the city.

Mr. Meredith: But you guys can give tickets inside?

Sid Gautreaux: We’re like the mini state police. State police might be a Troop A, but they can give tickets over in Troop L. So it’s the same thing with us, we can, we have that authority throughout the parish.

Mr. Meredith: I guess a question in my head is, we’ve got the Baton Rouge City police department and then we’ve got the Sheriffs office, and you indicated there are initiatives where ya’ll are working together. I know when we first talked here, I cant believe it was almost four years ago as you were pointing out, That one of the main issues you wanted to push was coordination of services and resources with State Police, Baton Rouge City Police and Sheriff’s office. How has that taken place?

Sid Gautreaux: One of the first things, I did, I wasn’t in office two weeks, and we held a meeting at the Louisiana Sheriff’s association. And I invited every law enforcement agency both on the state and local level for a eight-parish region. We had about one hundred and twenty five in attendance and I just opened the door and set the tone at that point, saying that we are here to work together and cooperate with any other agencies on any endeavors. And that’s worked out well. Actually to this point, we’ve had limited participation from Baton Rouge City Police. But I’ve spoken to their new Chief and he’s indicated to me that he wants to get on board with a lot of the things that were doing and I’m going to look forward to that.

Mr. Meredith: And I guess that’s the new Baton Rouge City Police Chief White?

Sid Gautreaux: Right

Mr. Meredith: He was just chosen in the last couple of days.

Sid Gautreaux: Right.

Mr. Meredith: Let’s talk to the folks about some of the resources and where they are allocated because as I understand it, we’ve got a population of around say 460, you subtract Baker, Zachary, and that brings us down to about 430 or so. And basically Baton Rouge City Police is taking care of about half of that population. Sheriff’s offices taking care of about the other half of the population. But you have a lot less deputies.

Sid Gautreux: Actually, they police a little higher number than we do. Maybe twenty or thirty thousand more people than we do, but we have a lot bigger area to cover than they do and right now even with the increase, we’ve increased the force by about thirty something deputies. And we are in the process of doing some more. But our uniform patrol division, has approximately one hundred and seventy deputies, and our detective division has approximately one hundred and twenty, so we have a little less than three hundred deputies as opposed, Baton Rouge has I think has somewhere in the neighborhood, with detectives and uniformed patrol, somewhere in the neighborhood of five hundred-five hundred and fifty.

Mr. Meredith: And Sid, everything I hear is that, I think the Mayor’s told me this and the police chief previously told me that 80 % of the crime takes place within the city limits. And really frankly, in North Baton Rouge from a geographic stand point. And I guess that would account for the greater number of Baton Rouge Police officers versus the needs of the deputies. Does that make senses and is that right?

Sid Gautreaux: It’s partly right yeah, and I think as far as the crime you spoke about, they’ve identified three, well actually, four different area codes, which most of those crimes are being committed in, three of them are in the city of Baton Rouge, One of them kind of splits, between the city of Baton Rouge and the Parish.

Mr. Meredith: Isn’t it like the Gardere area or something like that?

Sid Gautreaux: No, actually its well, Gardere has gotten a lot better, of course that’s where when we started we knew that forty percent of our calls to service came out of Gardere. So when we started our initiatives, and started our community policing and our bike patrol and so forth we put those forces in Gardere. And it’s not to say that Gardere is fine now because they still have problems, but it’s nowhere near where it used to be.

Mr. Meredith: Well, that’s great news. It is showing that ya’ll identified a problem and you dedicated the resources and your getting positive results.

Sid Gautreaux: Right, and we’ve moved those resources around, you know, you cant go in an area and do what we’ve done in Gardere and forget about it and go somewhere else. But we have other areas in the parish and in the city that we’ve addressed, that we’ve gone through with the same type of initiatives and we are in the process of trying to expand our community policing, and so forth to do this and more consistently in all areas.

Mr. Meredith: Every law enforcement person that I have spoken with as indicated that they need the community, they need the neighborhood folks and they need eyes and ears because you guys can’t do it on your own.

Sid Gautreaux: Well that’s exactly right, and you know I tell everybody that this is not just a law enforcement problem and I know, I’ll talk more about it after our break but it isn’t just a law enforcement problem. We need to do everything we can on a law enforcement front to combat crime but we cant do it without the public.

Mr. Meredith: We’ll be right back this is Locke Meredith, Legal Lines, Sid Gautreaux, the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish.

 

Mr. Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines, again, I’m very pleased to have on the show today Sid Gautreaux, he is the Sheriff for East Baton Rouge Parish. Again, Sid, thanks for being on the show today.

Sid Gautreaux: Thank you for having me.

Mr. Meredith: Alright, were talking about the success you’ve had by focusing resources, but you can’t do it without the community. I assume that was the reason, in large part that, that was successful.

Sid Gautreaux: Our approach to crime in the Sheriffs office and combating crime, and trying to make it a safer place for all of us, is two fold. One we do a tremendous amount of community outreach and what I mean by that, just like our community policing, and with deputies getting out of their vehicles and walking door to door.

Mr. Meredith: So it’s relational?

Sid Gautreaux: Right, its opening up a line of communication between us and the public letting the people know that we care, that we’re here to help, were not going to be here today, gone tomorrow and its maintaining that relationship. And Locke, its amazing, veterans that’s been in law enforcement fifteen or twenty years what they’re seeing that’s happening now in these communities where we have this community outreach is that the cooperation we get. A lot of times we get called to come to a shooting or something and were getting a call from someone before we get on the scene, the guy your looking for is such and such. So the community has built that trust and we’ve built that trust with them and we can’t do it without them. But you know, its two fold, you’ve got to do a lot of community outreach, which we do. We challenge each one of our substation commanders to come up with his or her idea of what they want to do, at least once a year to reach out to the community and they call on a faith based community, civic associations the business associations, everybody to come together, have some kind of community function. And we’ve done that now and that’s helped. But its not just the community outreach, you have to have equal amount of enforcement and we a lot of aggressive enforcement, and a lot of it is one of our initiatives. We’ve gone and we’ve had like I’ve said, agencies from both the federal, state and local, every time we do one of our initiatives. We’ve gone into some of the worst areas in the parish, but they’ve been very very effective.

Mr. Meredith: I think you’ve indicated that you hired thirty new deputies and I think maybe prior to the show that you were telling me you, ya’ll have new substations.

Sid Gautreaux: Right, we were able to, you know the North part of the parish, council district one, is a third of the land mass for East Baton Rouge Parish. And the population has increased in that area as well as it has in others. So I knew from being with the Sheriffs office back in the seventies that we just did not have enough coverage up in that area. So we were able to, we’ve opened one substation in the planes above Zachary, in the Port Hudson area, and we are in the process of opening a second one up in the Pride area, Pride, Chaneyville area, up in the northeast part of the parish. Yeah, and this is the benefit from it. Number one we were able to accomplish that by cooperative endeavor we entered into with the city of Zachary on land there. And with the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, with land they owned out in Pride.

Mr. Meredith: So there’s a uniting of resources.

Sid Gautreaux: Right, that’s exactly right. And then the big thing the kicker with it, that made it all really happen Exxon Mobil donated to us a fifteen thousand square foot modular building, so we had it appraised, it was appraised for seven hundred thousand dollars, so we took ten thousand square foot and put it in Zachary, and took the other five thousand square foot and put it in Pride. And what it does.

Mr. Meredith: I love to here the business’s contributing. They need their employees to be safe and have a good community to grow up in.

Sid Gautreux: That’s right. That’s what it takes. It takes all of us, but what it does now. We have deputies in those areas twenty-four seven and prior to that we made a few patrols in those areas, but we were having to pull deputies from Scotland Sub to go up on the Northwest part of the Parish to handle calls we were having to pull deputies out of central to do the same thing on the Northeast side of the parish so no longer will we have to pull deputies out of their zone to go into another to work and then they go back. So we are getting better coverage up there.

Mr. Meredith: So lets talk about the crime statistics. Again, folks are under the impression that crime is up. Now, I know that homicide is just a big problem.

Sid Gautreaux: Yeah, it really is. You know already this year we’ve worked as many homicides as we worked the entire year of last year.

Mr. Meredith: Why is that happening Sid? Is it drug related?

Sid Gautreaux: A lot of it is drug related. I would say that probably eighty percent of it is drug related. Some of it is crime of passion, but the majority of it to me is drug related. Our crimes stats, our UCR stats from 2009- 2010 in the parish, excluding the city of Baton Rouge, we had a decrease of eight percent in our major crimes which includes arson, rape, robbery, theft, burglary, homicide, auto theft, we had an, we actually had a reduction of eight percent, in those major crimes from 2009 to 2010. The only area we had an increase, we had a slight increase in arsons, but you know its going to take the whole village and you know there’s a lot said to that. I’ve got an analogy that I use when I look and see what’s going on out on streets. And a Locke, the average young person that we have to deal with out on the street, you can look them in the eye and say where are you going to be five years from now and they don’t hesitate, they either tell you, I’m going to be dead or in prison. And that’s really.

Mr. Meredith: No hope.

Sid Gautreaux: No, it’s almost like they have the mentality they live in a third world country. You know that there’s nothing out there for me. And you know that’s, we’ve got to change that.

Mr. Meredith: You know I had the District Attorney in, Hillar Moore and again every law enforcement person that I talk to and I think you’ve probably told me that the great problem is our youth, the education, truancy, and stable environment.

Sid Gautreaux: I’ve got a prison full of people that, in East Baton Rouge Parish, at the prison and I can tell you there’s two main things that stand out about the people that are out there. The vast majority of them have an addiction…drugs, alcohol, or both. I would say probably ninety five percent of them. The other thing is, the average educational level is sixth grade. So a lack of education and an addiction is, the both are two key factors in a life of crime.

Mr. Meredith: And it sounds like the kids that you have to talk to know that.

Sid Gautreaux: They do. And its just like they have nothing really to live for, nothing to hope for.

Mr. Meredith: So is there any component of the Sheriff’s office in conjunction or by itself to deal with or try and target those kids?

Sid Gautreaux: Yeah, We’ve got a strong DARE program, and its not just the fifth grade, we go up through junior high with it. Our deputies are in forty different schools in the Parish, both private and public schools.

Mr. Meredith: And DARE does what, goes in and tries to educate them? Tell them these facts?

Sid Gautreaux: They educate them. DARE is a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and really, quite frankly, it’s the best thing that I’ve seen. If they come out with something better I’ll go to it, but I haven’t seen anything better yet. And those deputies are in the school, part of the faculty, and they work with those kids every day. In conjunction with that we have our school drug task force and our SCAT team goes into the schools and works with kids.

Mr. Meredith: And obviously if we can stop it there, we’ve got a lot better chance of shutting it down the next time.

Mr. Meredith: This is Locke Meredith, Legal Lines, Sid Gautreaux, the Sheriff for East Baton Rouge Parish. We’ll be right back.

 

Mr. Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines, I’m Locke Meredith and again, very pleased to have on the show Sid Gautreaux. He is the Sheriff for East Baton Rouge Parish. Sid, we’re talking about the youth that you see in the prisons and their either addicted to drugs or alcohol and less than a sixth grade education. So what are we doing?

Sid Gautreaux: Well besides the things that we are doing in the schools, we also started a program, we’ve gone from two self help programs at the prison to twelve, but two of the things we offer the youth, and I have one to attend next week, is what we call reality behind bars. And we bring those troubled youth in, several times a year and actual prisoners themselves put on skits, and talk to these kids one on one and tell them this is what I did, these are the mistakes I made to get where I am, and this is where I am now in hopes that they can reach some of these children and try to turn their lives around. But Locke, to me the problem to this is going to take all of us to try and solve, and it’s going to take a while, because we’ve evolved over the years to where we are now. But I’m going use this triangle analogy. What built my character, what formed my character, that triangle, the base of that triangle was my home, one side was my school and one side was my church. And no matter where I was in that triangle, I got the same message, right over wrong, good over evil, do the right thing, no matter what the cost. And if I didn’t do the right thing I had consequences to face no matter where I was in that triangle. My circle of influence, my faith in god, you know the movies I watched, the TV I watched, the role models I had, you know all the positive images. The friends I had, it was the same thing right over wrong, good over evil. But today so many of these youth we’re dealing with, that triangle, the home is broke, if it is there’s usually one parent home, its usually a mother whose working three jobs just to try to keep things together. They’ve dropped out of school, they don’t, they’re not in Church, but what does exist is that circle of influence and the music they listen to, the TV they watch, the lack of role models, all the negative messages they got. And it’s going to take that whole community, It starts at the home but its going to take the school, the Church, the business community, its going to take all of us because we all are role models.

Mr. Meredith: Sid, I was in a McDonald’s yesterday and a young guy had a little puppy in his coat and a police officer who wasn’t in his uniform came in and said that dog needs to go out and told the management. And that kid was so belligerent and it was as if he had never been faced with any kind of authority or required any kind of respect from him. When he was told that the guy was a police officer he didn’t care. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right.

Mr. Meredith: And it’s confirming what your talking about and that is that they just have nothing it seems like that they can fall back on other than themselves and maybe a gang.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right, that’s exactly right. And we see it every day, we see it every day in law enforcement.

Mr. Meredith: It’s a sad situation and I don’t want to say we’re hopeless or they’re hopeless and I guess all you can do is we can notify the community of what the need is and pull the resources.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right and you know, you can’t say its hopeless and its just like the media, with all of the deals we are doing out at the prison. You know its like I say, whether we keep somebody six weeks, six months or six years, were going to do everything we can to expose them to the right things.

Mr. Meredith: So what is the self-help program? What exactly is that?

Sid Gautreaux: Well one thing, we’ve done we’ve opened a faith-based wing, that’s a whole wing that’s just faith based and that’s all denominations. People come in on a daily basis and have instruction with them.

Mr. Meredith: So any Church, any program that they want to volunteer to help the kids.

Sid Gautreaux: Right, we have right now about a hundred and twenty volunteers that come into that prison every day.

Mr. Meredith: We need to get that message out and folks that want to pour into these kids have a great opportunity.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s exactly right. We started a GED wing, which those prisoners that want to get an education can get in a learning environment. And that’s nothing but GED Prisoners there and we’ve graduated over 300 with GED’s.

Mr. Meredith: Fantastic. Now do folks come in and volunteer to teach them?

Sid Gautreaux: Once again, we have volunteers.

Mr. Meredith: So you don’t have to do it, if you’re not into the Faith based side, come in and educate these kids.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right. That’s exactly right and so you know, as one reporter asked me, he said do you really think it’s going to, all these programs are going to make a difference. I said yeah, I really do. I said I can’t tell you how much but if I can keep one of these people from coming back in here and the cynicism is what kills the state. We’ve got so much recidsim, that within three to five years of a point of release, this is national statistics, those that are incarcerated today, within three to five years of their release, seventy percent of them will be back in prison. Something’s got to change. That’s not fixing the problem.

Mr. Meredith: That’s not fixing the problem, throwing them in jail or prison is not going to change them. It makes it worse doesn’t it?

Sid Gautreaux: Well it does, if you don’t offer these other programs. You know because there are people in there that say I’m tired of living like this. But if they don’t have alternatives and you know, relocation is a big thing, we’ve started that now.

Mr. Meredith: Which I guess deals with the family, or the support system?

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right because we try to, the ones that really want to get themselves out of that environment and change their life, upon their release if they go back into the same environment that they came from, they have one strike against them already, so there’s a lot of private companies and so forth that started up that are working with relocation and re-entry programs.

Mr. Meredith: That’s great. That’s great news. Well let’s shift gears a little bit and put on the other hats. We talked about the criminal hat. Let’s talk about the civil side of what you do.

Sid Gautreaux: The Civil side is a big part of it. Our office is funded, seventy-five percent of our office is funded by three property mill ages. One is a permanent mill age, the other two are renewable every ten years. We just renewed one last year, we have another one to renew in I think two more years. But seventy-five percent of our budget comes from that property millage tax and then we have about twenty-five percent of our budget comes from fines and fees and related things.

Mr. Meredith: So what is the size of the Sheriff’s budget?

Sid Gautreaux: Right now about sixty-five million. Sixty-five to seventy million a year.

Mr. Meredith: A big chunk of change.

Sid Gautreaux: Yeah, we have close to nine hundred employees overall.

Mr. Meredith: And as I understand it, you have spent a lot of money, first of all addressing the needs of the workforce, your deputies, dealing with pay and benefits and such.

Sid Gautreaux: Well, that’s exactly right. When I took office, our fleet, our vehicle fleet was in deplorable condition. Well over one hundred thousand miles on every vehicle, so we’ve upgraded our fleet, we’ve upgraded our equipment, we’ve got emergency response equipment now.

Mr. Meredith: You’ve got that observation tower now.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right, that observation tower has been worth its weight in gold. You may have seen it around during the holiday season. We move it around from shopping center to shopping center. And it goes thirty-five feet up in the air and it expands, and it’s got cameras and recording equipment, its got computers in there, the whole nine yards. So, it’s a good deterrent.

Mr. Meredith: So for any large gathering of folks it’s used to promote safety.

Sid Gautreaux: You’ll see it fourth of July, you’ll see it downtown at the river front, it’ll be down there, so, we use it at ball games, we use at the State Fairgrounds for the State Fair, its been a tremendous help.

Mr. Meredith: And you’ve upgraded the units, not only in terms of the units themselves, that is the vehicles, but with cameras and computers and everything else, hadn’t you?

Sid Gautreaux: Yeah, we’ve done all of that and we’re still in the process of outfitting the units with in car cameras and you know, we’ve got bullet proof vests for the deputies, just you know upgrades on weapons, we’ve got tasers for every body now.

Mr. Meredith: And I think you indicated also that you’ve upgraded the computer system so folks can do just a lot more over the internet.

Sid Gautreaux: Right, We’ve got a lot more, you can pay your taxes online now, you can pay a ticket online now, which you couldn’t before. And we’re working on it still. We’ve done a lot in the last three and a half years and we still have a lot more to do and hopefully we’ll get that opportunity.

Mr. Meredith: So go to the website and your going to learn a lot and be able to do a lot.

Sid Gautreaux: That’s right.

Mr. Meredith: Sid, thank you for being on the show again.

Sid Gautreaux: Thank you

Mr. Meredith: This is Locke Meredith with Sid Gautreaux, the Sheriff for East Baton Rouge Parish. Thank you for being with us.

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