Lafayette City-Parish Mayor-President Joel Robideaux wants to do away with the requirement that all applicants for police chief have a bachelor’s degree or nearly 40 years of experience, a move he said will broaden the field of qualified candidates as he searches for the Lafayette Police Department’s new leader.
Robideaux, who took office in January, offered a proposal Wednesday to the local Fire and Police Civil Service Board to allow applicants to have law enforcement experience plus a mix of college credit or a two-year degree in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.
He said the proposal mirrors requirements in most other Louisiana cities.
“Ultimately, what I want out of this is to have someone who we can all be proud of and who reflects the community we live in,” he said.
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.
“At some point in the future, you would have to be 100 years old to apply,” Robideaux said of setting the 1979 start date for law enforcement service.
Robideaux has not announced any preference in his search to replace former Chief Jim Craft, who retired in January, but the changes would open the door for Robideaux’s interim chief, Reginald Thomas, to apply for the job.
Thomas does not have a college degree, but he does have an associate degree in criminal justice and 25 years of experience at the department, 10 of those as a supervisor. He also is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Thomas has said he’s interested in the chief’s job. But he said changing the education requirements is about more than improving his prospects. He said it will bring Lafayette in line with other cities in the state, most of which consider experience and college coursework in lieu of a four-year degree.
“We have officers who have been here 30 years and are not allowed to test (for the chief’s position),” he said. “Those same officers can go to every city in the state and test.”
The Fire and Police Civil Service Board is expected to take up the issue next month.
Robideaux’s proposal lays out three tiers of qualifications for the chief’s position: 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, supports the first two tiers but has yet to vote on the third tier that would open the job up to candidates with only a high school diploma and some college coursework, said association President Detective Dorian Brabham.