The Fire and Police Civil Service Board on Wednesday turned aside a request by Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux to do away with the bachelor’s degree requirement for the city’s police chief job, a change Robideaux argued is in line with other cities and would expand the field of applicants as he searches for a new chief.
The request, had it been approved, would have allowed the man Robideaux appointed as interim chief, Reginald Thomas, to qualify to serve as the permanent chief.
The board took no formal action on the mayor’s request and instead voted 4-1 to propose a tweaked version of the current qualifications, keeping the bachelor’s degree requirement in place.
The proposed change is subject to a 30-day public comment period, and the board is expected to vote on the issue next month.
Robideaux, who took office in January, had pushed to allow chief applicants to have law enforcement experience plus a mix of college credit or a two-year degree in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.
The only exception to the college degree under current civil service rules is for applicants who have worked in law enforcement since October 1979, a provision approved during a prior chief search in 2004.
The proposal Wednesday would remove the 1979 grandfathering provision.
Robideaux has not announced any preference in his search to replace former Chief Jim Craft, who retired in January, but under the qualifications proposed Wednesday, Thomas, now serving as interim chief, would not meet the requirements.
Thomas, who is interested in the job, does not have a four-year college degree. However, he does have an associate degree in criminal justice and 25 years of experience at the department, serving for 10 of those years as a supervisor.
Thomas told board members Wednesday that extensive experience on the force should be considered in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.
“We give our life for this city, so I think at least we can walk into a room and take a test,” Thomas said, referring to the standardized test required of chief applicants.
Robideaux had proposed three new tiers of chief qualifications: allowing applicants to have a bachelor’s degree plus 15 years of law enforcement experience; an associate degree or 69 hours of college coursework plus 20 years’ experience; or a high school diploma with some college coursework and 25 years of experience.
The Police Association of Lafayette, an officer group, supported the first two tiers but took no stance on the third tier, said Detective Dorian Brabham, the association’s president. “His (Robideaux’s) qualifications are still more stringent than anywhere else in the state,” Brabham said.
Board member Ralph Peters made the proposal Wednesday to revise the current qualifications, keeping the bachelor’s degree with an additional stipulation that the degree be in criminal justice, public administration, homeland security, business administration, business management or a related field and additional requirements for law enforcement and supervisory experience.
The board voted 4-1 to open a 30-day window for public comment on the proposed qualifications.
Voting in support of the proposal were Peters and board members Jason Boudreaux, Guy Lebreton and Thomas Hayes.
Craig Forsyth cast the lone “no” vote.
Robideaux was not available for comment after Wednesday’s meeting but released a brief written statement.
“The authority to establish the qualifications for Lafayette’s police chief belongs to the Fire and Police Civil Service Board members. There will be 30 more days of public comment on the proposed changes to the qualifications,” he said. “At the end of this process, my hope is to have many qualified candidates to choose from. Rest assured, my choice for our permanent police chief will be the candidate who I believe can best address the needs of our community.”