Seal: Public shows support

Published 7:01 am Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said that while he’s angered and saddened over the murder of three police officers in Baton Rouge Sunday, he thinks law enforcement in Washington Parish is probably safe.

“We’re being cautious,” he said of his deputies. “ If we are dealing with our own people, I feel like we’ll be OK, but if it’s with outsiders, then that’s another can of worms.”

Gavin Long, the Baton Rouge shooter who killed three police officers and wounded three more, drove to the city from his home in Missouri. According to media reports, Long, who was shot to death after his attack on Sunday, was angered by the death of Alton Sterling.

Sterling was a civilian who was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge on July 5. Sterling’s death, and the deaths of other African American men at the hands of police, triggered protests in cities across the nation and on July 7, Micah Johnson murdered five police officers as they observed one of those protests.

Neither Johnson nor Long have been associated with any specific police protest group, although news reports have described both men as generally upset with the government at large.

Seal said one advantage to living in a rural area is a better relationship between civilians and law enforcement.

“We don’t feel like the civilians are treating us any different than they have in the past,” he said. “We haven’t detected that. I think its good you live in a small parish when situations like this happen. Most people know you … people know me and I think they’re gaining trust in the sheriff’s office to where we’re getting folks calling us and letting us know what’s going on.”

Because of the good relationship between the community and law enforcement, Seal said he’s seen no need to alter how his deputies operate in response to the police murders, though he did say his deputies are more aware of their surroundings.

Seal added that other communities could learn from the unity displayed in rural communities.

“These people have families,” he said of law enforcement officers. “They want to go home at night. We can’t allow this to happen in our country. We gotta stand together. It’s an old cliché, but united we stand and divided we fall.”

Seal said law enforcement plays an important role in any society.

“We gotta let the system work,” he said. “That’s why we got the system. And if we don’t let it work then we end up with anarchy. Law enforcement is the step between anarchy and democracy.”