“Critical shortage” in Lafayette patrol officers will affect response times

Posted at 11:14 PM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-12 00:14:36-04

The Lafayette Police Association is sounding the alarm about what they say is a "critical shortage" in patrol officers.

Members of the union and Lafayette Police Department officials say they’ve been under-staffed for months which is affecting their response times.

It’s an issue that union leaders have been asking department and city officials to fix for more than a year.

Now, they hope by taking their message to Facebook, they will educate the public as to what’s happening and lead to new hires.

"The calls for services are going up and there’s not as many officers to handle it," said Scott Rummel, the VP of the Lafayette Police Association.

Lafayette Police also admit they’ve been fighting to retain officers and fill gaps in the department. Just in the last week alone, two officers have retired and 4 have resigned.

"We are understaffed. As an agency, there’s some staffing issues. When it comes down to it, the more officers we’re able to put on the road, the more quality service we can give in the community," said department spokesman, Karl Ratcliff.

According to the city’s budget, the police department would be fully staffed at 277 patrol officers. The Association says, that’s still 45 officers short of FBI standards.

Right now, the department has around 250 officers.

"It’s only gotten worse which is why we decided to pull the trigger on it and start moving on it. When we as a police association represent 80% of the department, we start seeing some things like union members who are starting to drop out and go to other departments," said Rummel. "These are all patrol officers, these are all guys who are handling things in the city and the unfortunately, the citizens of Lafayette are the ones that are going to feel that the most."

And that’s why they’re now going on social media.

"We felt like as a union seeing the problems that we are seeing with officers leaving and the shortages that we have with the PD, we felt like that was a good avenue to explore and educate people," said the union VP.

The police department and police union say that although there’s a critical need for officers, they don’t just want to fill boots on the ground. They’re mainly looking for quality.

"You’re looking at almost a full year from recruitment to post academy, to initial phase training which is something that is done in house. And the field training portion which is done on the street, I mean it takes almost a full year for an officer to get cut loose," Rummel said.

Last year the city received a grant to add ten new police officers to the force and to expand precinct 4.

But officers say they will still have to prioritize calls.

Rummel said the shooting death of fellow officer, Cpl. Michael Middlebrook shows it’s a matter of life or death.

"What can we do to better protect our guys? That particular incident, the officer arrived on scene first and had to wait on his backup, which arrived shortly after but unfortunately it was too late. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent, we want to make sure that our officers are able to respond to those calls in numbers and keep a situation under control. You’re more likely to deter something bad happening to an officer than if you only had one," he said.

A few weeks ago, the police association told KATC’s Dannielle Garcia, these issues are the reason why they’re on board with the sheriff for a joint tax to fund law enforcement on the December ballot.

KATC also spoke with the Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque who says these issues will be discussed this Thursday at the police liason meeting and he suspects it will be brought up in budget talks this summer as well.