Police chief candidates speak: 2 of 7 attend forum

Published 5:28 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Although only two of the seven candidates for Bogalusa’s next police chief attended a community forum Monday, the candidates who did show up met about 30 citizens eager to improve community policing and reduce crime.

The candidates who were present were longtime Bogalusa police officer and acting assistant chief James Smith, and Kenneth Scott, deputy chief for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. The forum lasted about two hours and, at the end, organizer Malcolm Moses said he thought both men did well.

“Both of the candidates had good, solid information,” he said. Moses added that he wished more candidates would come and he lamented that Mayor Wendy Perrette did not attend, though he said he was still optimistic the right candidate would get picked.

The candidates who did not attend included Tommie Sorrell, Kendal Bullen, Albert Semmes, Charles “Bubba” McDaniel and Jason Chretien.

The police chief candidates will go before a citizens’ panel and that panel will evaluate the candidates for the mayor. The top two candidates will be passed on to the mayor and then the mayor will make a recommendation to the city council, who will approve or reject the candidate. Several city council members were at Monday’s meeting, including Brian McCree, Doug Ritchie, Tamira Smith and Gloria Kates.

For much of the forum, both Scott and Smith agreed with each other’s positions on issues like community policing, hiring policies, weeding out cliques and eliminating the so-called “good ol’ boy network.” Both have been in law enforcement a similar length of time, with Scott serving for 28 years and Smith for a little less than 27 years.

The biggest distinction between the two was biographical, with Scott hailing from Chicago, Ill., and having worked in law enforcement in Maryland, South Dakota, Seattle, Wash., and now Louisiana.

Smith argued that if he were chief, he would have a better knowledge of Bogalusa.

“I’ve worked my way up from a police officer working the streets to administration,” he said, early in the forum.

Later on, Smith said one common complaint of the police department that officers don’t treat everyone fairly and that even within the department, certain officers aren’t treated fairly. He said that as someone who’s been inside the department, he can change that problem.

“I have been here 26 years and in Bogalusa, the problem is, everybody isn’t treated on the same playing field,” Smith said. “I’ve been on the receiving end of that, so I know it for a fact. You got to stop the cliques.”

Scott said, as an outsider, he couldn’t speak to existing internal troubles in the Bogalusa Police Department, but he said the best way to get rid of internal problems is by bringing in a new person.

“If you want change, bring in someone brand spanking new who is not beholden to anyone,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, the audience got to ask questions.

Marvin Austin asked the two candidates whether there was anything in their past that would disqualify them from being chief. Scott gave a quick “no,” while Smith said he was investigated by the FBI, but nothing came of it.

“Some things took place, and for some reason my name got brought up in it,” Smith said.

Perrette had a prior engagement Monday and, Tuesday, she pointed out she didn’t even know about the event until late Thursday of last week and she never received a formal invitation. Nevertheless, she said she’s on the same page as the citizens who raised questions Monday.

“I have the same concerns as the citizens because I am a citizen,” she said. “I want to feel safe in my home going to the mail box and going to the trash can … I have the same legitimate concerns. I am a single mother and I have a 13-year-old child, and nobody wants to become a victim of a crime. I want to feel safe in my home and not become a victim.”

Perrette said citizens are welcome to submit questions for the police chief candidates, The deadline to submit them is Thursday, Nov. 3.