Newly appointed Jeanerette Police Chief Jeffery Matthews said Friday that he was poring over résumés of applicants in an effort to beef up the woefully understaffed department.
“I’m looking to hire six or seven more,” Matthews said. His department now has five officers to patrol a city of more than 5,500 residents.
Jeanerette was left without a chief after Marvin Grogan left office in early June. Grogan resigned after he was charged in connection with alleged illegal activities at the now-closed Lafayette strip club Lipstick Gentlemen’s Club, where Grogan provided security.
The Jeanerette Board of Aldermen this past week appointed Matthews — one of four candidates — to the chief’s position. Also applying for the job was Gloria Lombard, who served as interim chief following Grogan’s resignation.
Matthews, 43, is a law enforcement veteran. He’s worn quite a few badges: a University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus cop; a State Police trooper (he said he didn’t like all those highway miles); an Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy; a Jeanerette police officer; and since 2010, he was a Jeanerette City Marshal’s Office deputy. Matthews has resigned from the Marshal’s Office to take the job as chief.
His future as chief, though, remains a little cloudy. After Grogan retired in June, city aldermen discussed having City Marshal Fernest “Pacman” Martin oversee the Police Department.
Martin asked the state Attorney General’s Office for an opinion whether he, as the marshal, could oversee the department.
The AG’s Office said Martin can enter into an agreement with the city to oversee the department as long as he is justly compensated for his time and as long as he stays within his jurisdiction as specified by state law.
Martin has said he is willing to give the proposal a try if that is what the board wants.
Martin’s role, if any, in the Police Department will be discussed and maybe decided at a Board of Aldermen meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Matthews said the two departments have worked together in the past. “If we need them, they come, and the same if they need us,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one-third of Jeanerette residents in 2013 live below the poverty line.
Grogan, meanwhile, has a court date coming up. He’s due to appear Sept. 1 in 15th Judicial Court for arraignment. He was accused of turning a blind eye as crimes such as drug sales and prostitution went on inside Lipstick. He was charged with two counts of principal to obscenity and one count of malfeasance.
KATC-TV contributed to this report.