Mayor: Bullen will build trust

Published 8:14 am Friday, December 9, 2016

Despite the recent allegations against new police chief Kendall Bullen, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said she remains hopeful that relations between the police and citizens will improve.

One way to improve that relationship is through community policing. Perrette said the department used to encourage officers to spend more time in communities and engage with citizens in non-criminal situations, and she said both she and Capt. Kendall Bullen want to bring that tradition back. Bullen was picked Tuesday by the city council to be the next police chief, and Perrette said he supports the idea.

Bullen will officially become chief in January, after former chief Joe Culpepper retires. Culpepper has technically been on vacation since this summer and in his stead interim chief Gene Crosby has been acting in that capacity. However, starting this week, Perrette said Bullen is making a transition into the chief’s office.

“He has offered the city to go ahead and start without the change of pay,” Perrette said.

As part of that transition, Perrette said former sheriff’s deputy Eddie Ratliff is assisting the new chief in kick-starting a new community policing program.

“It was apparent that the citizens of Bogalusa wanted a police chief that would implement community policing,” she said.

Perrette said she believes such a program could help average citizens trust police officers.

“It’s important for our community to know the police officers,” she said. “They need to see them beyond when there’s trouble.”

The program will begin by bringing police officers into neutral spaces like churches and schools to interact with people. Perrette said the original program came to an end around 2007, so Bullen has had experience with such a program.

“I think it decreases anxiety when meeting a police officer if you’re familiar with the individual,” she said.

This could be a key factor in decreasing whatever anxiety in the community remains after the council’s selection of Bullen. For months, a handful of citizens have accused Bullen of misconduct, including allegedly beating a man in 2001. No evidence of wrongdoing has ever surfaced, and Perrette said the best way to put those allegations to bed is to succeed.

“Prove them wrong,” she said. “And I believe he has the stuff to do it.”

Perrette said she’s seen Bullen’s dedication to the department since she stepped into office.

“In October of 2015, I warned (the police department) their productivity was lax,” she said.

Arrests were down and, she said, morale was flagging.

“I said to them, in a recorded meeting, guys and gals here we are. Your productivity has to increase. We cannot be reactive and be lax and expect to be supported by our community,” Perrette said. “And they agreed. And productivity began increasing almost immediately. … And there was no reward other than an ‘attaboy.’”

Perrette said she didn’t pull any punches and told them, “If you don’t want to be a police officer, go home because you’re an embarrassment to your fellow men who

are busting their buns.”

As part of the shakeup, Perrette put Bullen in charge of a shift and she encouraged shift commanders to turn productivity into a friendly competition.

“The shift that is the most productive right now is his shift,” she said. “It picked up tremendously.”

She said she expects him to motivate the department in the same way he motivated his shift. In the hours after Tuesday’s decision, she said she received immediate support from officers.

“I was overwhelmingly surprised last night and today by the text messages and the phone calls to the police department’s reaction to the naming of the police chief,” she said. “They were happy. I think it was good for morale.”