This is a question that I hope all citizens residing in the city of Natchitoches will ask their council person as the City Council will vote on the mayor’s proposition in the upcoming weeks. I hope that each council member will cautiously make their decision based on common sense and what is best for the city. If you look at cities that have police commissioners, you will quickly see that larger cities in the United States utilize police commissioners due to the size of the department and the size of the city to better manage its police force. These larger departments have numerous “chiefs of police” for each of their divisions. The police commissioner is tasked with providing the overall mission and focus for the city’s police force, considering problems that may be facing their city. The Mayor has renamed this proposed position in Natchitoches as the Commissioner of Public Safety to include the fire department perhaps in the hopes this position will be more desirable to the Community.
Natchitoches is admittedly having a crime problem with recent increases in property crimes and violent crimes. The number one issue that may be contributing to this recent uptick in crime in our city is that NPD, last I checked, was down 12 officers. This causes difficulties in not only being able to respond to these crimes, but also to properly investigate them. Our citizens must recognize that it takes a joint law enforcement effort between several entities in order to suppress the crime in Natchitoches, which includes the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office, the City Police, the District Attorney’s Office, Probation and Parole, and the 10th Judicial District Court. I was informed by knowledgeable sources that none of these offices were consulted about this decision by the Mayor.
I am not sure of the number of positions that NPD is allocated, but it cannot be more than 50 positions to include police officers, detectives, and dispatchers. NPD’s current ranking structure includes the Chief of Police, Assistant Chief and two Captains. The Chief is appointed by the mayor and answers only to the Mayor. My simple questions are: Why is the city creating another high salary position to do the same job that should be easily done by the acting Chief of Police? Why is the mayor proposing we have two people making high salaries to do the same job? Does it take two high salary positions to manage 50-60 people? Would our community not be better served by allocating some of that money to fill vacant police officer positions and put more “boots on the ground” to help fight crime in our city? In the press conference recently hosted by Mayor Williams, a question of funding this new position was asked and it was stated by the finance director that initial funding will be paid using already budgeted monies from the police department that were not fully spent due to staff shortages. It was also stated that next year, the city will budget the salary fully and that no additional monies will be needed because it is already budgeted. I hope that there will be clarification on this because if the city uses funds that were budgeted for police officers, and next year there will not be additional funds needed, it sounds like the city will be cutting the police departments size in order to fund this position. This will mean less manpower “boots on the ground” to help with the crime problem.
Another well-kept secret is the city will be raising the electricity and water rates in order to give raises to the NPD and most likely fund this new position. I, for one, do not mind paying extra to give hard working men and women a raise to help retain them, but using those monies to create a high salary position that is not needed is absurd and a waste of tax payer’s money.
I hope the City Council and the citizens will ask questions about this newly created position of Commissioner of Public Safety. This is reminiscent of another high salary job that was proposed by the Mayor to create a Chief of Staff position to the tune of 100k a year. This was ultimately stopped by the city council. I hope the city council will once again put deep consideration into this newly proposed position and propose a more logical and actionable use of these funds; one that will actually help combat the crime in our city and relieve the pressure on our overworked and underpaid police officers. As a 30 year veteran in law enforcement, I truly believe the officers assigned to the Natchitoches Police Department would ask to fully staff the shortages in the field, first and foremost, to combat the ever increasing crime in Natchitoches, before considering another suit, behind a desk.
Honorably Retired Sergeant
Los Angeles Country Sheriffs Department