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City leaders vote to apply for "Cop Hiring Program" amid officer shortage

Opelousas City Hall
Posted at 10:23 PM, Apr 24, 2023

OPELOUSAS, L.a. — City leaders in Opelousas voted in a special meeting Monday night to move forward with the application process for nearly a million dollars in federal aid — and it's all to increase patrols and protection by hiring at least eight new officers.

Chief Graig Leblanc and his administration asked Mayor Julius Alsandor and the city council to approve the move to apply. Opelousas Police Department currently employs 40 officers and those on the force said that's still not enough.

"We're applying for the most and hoping we can get the most, now to say if we can hire 8 officers, we've been trying to hire 8 officers over the last 6 years," said OPD's Major Mark Guidry at the podium Monday. "We've got two left out of the last several officers we hired, so it's never going to be an ongoing process where we're gonna get eight people, keep them for three years, and this number is gonna work out exactly. That's next to impossible."

This comes as officers report an increase in violent crime within the city. Chief Leblanc referenced the recent shootings on Kim and Ina Claire Drives. We spoke with a resident on Kim Drive, who wanted to remain anonymous, about what she's experienced as a lifelong resident.

"It's broad daylight, they shooting, shooting, shooting, just senseless crime," she said. "Out here playing with your kids and you're running, ducking, who wants to live like that?"

That's why the chief and his staff hope to receive as much federal funding as possible after applying for the full amount of the grant money: $947,561.52. It's listed in the meeting's agenda as the "Cops Hiring Program."

"With us making sure public safety is kept on the weekends, we cannot afford to provide the community the type of law enforcement service they deserve," said Leblanc.

Still, Mayor Julius Alsandor who will be applying for the grant on behalf of the police department said this is a process that will require a team effort.

"The chief and his administrative staff have worked diligently to bring this forth to us to get more officers," Alsandor said. "But at the same time, let the public know that we are working to put more police officers to make our community much safer than it is now, but collectively though, they have to play their part in it as well because our tomorrow is gonna take all of us. Government can only do so much."

According to the mayor, any funds awarded will be matched 25 percent by the city. The application for the grant is due by May 4. The next city council meeting is May 9.

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