The Lafayette Police Union has issued a statement critical of the Mayor-President's plan to close four recreation centers and lay off dozens of recreation and park employees.
The two-page statement also criticizes the administration's plan to cut the police and fire budgets, and lashes out at Lafayette Sheriff Mark Garber.
"We understand and support a “tightening of the belt” as we are sympathetic to the tax burden and financial stress upon our community. We are a part of the very same community. We live here, we raise our families here, we have friends here, and as such we understand the need for budget cuts," the statement reads.
"On the other hand, we are outraged and sad when we see our community suffering and know that these irrational decisions will likely have a lasting impact on our communities’ children for years to come. The Mayor-President believes that terminating 37 employees from the Parks and Recreation Department and closing recreational centers is the best decision for our community at this time. This will undoubtedly affect the children of the community. It will leave many of these children with less recreational opportunities, structure and mentorship making them more susceptible to being sucked into a life a crime," the statement continues.
The statement defends the Park Police, which is slated to be elminated by Guillory's cuts, and attacks his plans to funnel millions to the sheriff.
"While terminating 37 employees, including the entire Park Police Department, Mr. Guillory simultaneously moves to transfer millions of dollars away from in need areas of Lafayette Consolidated Government to Sheriff Garber. This is being justified as “improvements in LPCC” in a time when Sheriff Garber isn’t even allowing the overwhelming majority of criminals to be booked into the jail," the statement reads. "And community please don’t forget about the on-going improvements and renovations to the Lafayette Parish Jail funded by Lafayette Consolidated Government over the past few decades all while the Sheriff was constructing his own private jail on Willow Street under the guise of being a “public safety complex”."
The statement claims that Garber is attempting to dismantle civil service - a system set up to prevent politically-motivated transfers, promotions, hirings and firings - and asks Guillory to reconsider.
"We are asking that Mayor-President Guillory do the appropriate thing and rescind his decisions to bail out the Sheriff and terminate 37 members of the LCG family. These 37 individuals are community advocates and their jobs are more important than improving the showers at the jail, as Lt. Mowell has indicated the money will be used for," the statement concludes.
We've reached out to Guillory and Garber for a response.
Here's what Guillory told us:
"My response to the public is I want you to really evaluate the police department in this situation. Reach out to me. I want to know if you want your police officers to be political, I don't. I definitely think we need to address that. Just to the point that was raised, it's different funding mechanisms, so the positions that we've unfortunately had to cut because of our fiscal situation is funded through the general fund. You mentioned 37 people...I think they mentioned something else. Funding the Sheriff for instance is through another millage and fund balance. I can't take money from what's public mandated, state mandated for a jail and pay for rec centers. You could technically take it from O&M in the city or parish general funds and pay those expenses, but I don't think that's appropriate. I will not support that going forward and the Sheriff knows that."
And here's what the Sheriff sent:
In reference to the Police Unions written statement, we want to take a moment to respond to some of the inaccurate information they are disseminating.
1. "Transfer of millions of dollars away from in need areas of LCG to the Sheriff”. As referenced by the Union release, the Sheriff’s Office is “self-funded through taxes and other revenue sources”. That includes the money they are referencing because it is specifically earmarked for courthouse and jail expenses. To clarify it further, the money does not go to the sheriff, but is instead kept by LCG in a contractual services account so they can pay operational expenses directly.
2. Late last year, Lafayette Police received a $3.8 Million pay increase for everyone within the Department and an additional $2 Million in projected overtime. It was widely reported at the time, that this pay increase was “unsustainable” and they would be facing cuts within the department if it were to pass, and it did. It was also reported cuts would likely be required in other departments within LCG to help pay for those pay increases.
3. “Sheriff Garber isn’t even allowing the overwhelming majority of criminals to be booked into the jail”. Due to COVID-19, all people booked into the jail must be isolated until we are able to establish it is safe for them to be admitted with the remainder of the population. The Louisiana Department of Corrections is not allowing transfer of inmates between detention facilities to minimize the spread of COVID. These precautions are happening in every parish and require us to be ever so vigilant about who we receive in our facility. Since we do not have the ability to transfer inmates and we must have space to detain people who are a danger to others, we are working with the administrations of each law enforcement agency within our jurisdiction to help with the process. For example, Lafayette Police Department has booked 231 individuals (March 16 to July 7, 2020). All the agencies within the parish have booked a total of 622 individuals during that same time period. Our concern has to be for public safety both inside and outside our facilities.
4. “Improving showers” The Lafayette Sheriff’s Office is one of the largest stakeholders in the parish when it comes to the safety of the people who live, work and visit our community. With that said, we are also responsible for the safety and health of our employees and even inmates who are under our care, custody and control. Every year we have significant maintenance projects that are required to keep our correctional center running. The shower maintenance project is just one of those. We have approximately 35 showers that are used to service the entire inmate population.
5. "Sheriff Garber has already begun speaking of his intentions to dismantle the civil service system”. The Sheriff’s comments on this topic have been in line with much of the police reform debate sweeping the nation. He has made it abundantly clear that Law Enforcement Agency heads and administrations should have the authority to hold individual officers accountable for their actions. Many people across the country have made the connection that some of these polarizing use of force incidents occur in jurisdictions with civil service policies that make it nearly impossible for administrators to fire employees due to serious or numerous professional conduct complaints. Shame on those who are not intellectually honest enough to realize that public safety is our number one concern, and that civil service rules have to be adjusted in order to facilitate meaningful police reform.
Here's the Union's full statement: