DUSON —Duson’s Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint longtime Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputy and recent City Marshal candidate Kip Judice as chief of the town’s police force.
The appointment comes after at least 15 years of bad historywith the town’s chiefs of police, culminating most recently with the July firing of former Chief Frank Andrew amid allegations he was gambling while on duty.
Judice, 49, stood before a vocal crowd of about 60 Duson residents and promised to right the wrongs that have plagued the town’s police force, while asking for their cooperation in the transition.
“I need Duson to work with me,” he said.
Among the issues Judice will inherit are a backlog of felony arrest reports that were never submitted to the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and an evidence room filled with unlabeled guns, drugs and empty cash bags, Mayor Johnny Thibodeaux said.
“We’re not gonna put up with that,” Thibodeaux said.
The town began taking applications for the position last summer, but Thibodeaux postponed making a hire until after the board of aldermen took office in January.
Fifteen applications were submitted by February — four of which were under serious consideration — and the appointment was scheduled for the town’s meeting that month. But Thibodeauxpostponed the process againbecause more candidates wanted to apply, he said.
Judice, who’s worked at the Sheriff’s Office for 29 years, was the only new person to submit an application. Helost the December runofffor Lafayette city marshal against longtime deputy marshal Brian Pope.
Interim Chief Joe Caillet, who worked as chief since Andrew’s firing and has worked for Duson police since 2010, was among the top candidates after he lost the December runoff in Rayne’s police chief election, Thibodeaux said.
Alderwoman Carolyn Richard made a motion to appoint Caillet as chief, but the motion failed for lack of support.
The other three finalists included officer Eddie Guidry with the Rayne Police Department; Arnold Caesar Jr., who had law enforcement experience in Lafayette; and former Lafayette Police Department Lt. Nolvey Stelly Jr. of Carencro.
Stelly is involved in a federal lawsuit with other former officersalleging corruption against police and city-parish government officials.
Mayor Pro-Tem Carroll Pepper moved for Stelly’s appointment, but his motion died without support.
Aldermen Stephen Hanks and Coby Duhon next moved for Judice’s appointment, which got full support of the board.
Judice said he’ll meet with Caillet to evaluate the department before he takes office in April.
“You will not be dissatisfied with tonight’s vote,” he said.
The job of police chief was converted from an elected to an appointed position in 2009, when the town successfully sought legislation to make the adjustment after suffering repeated issues with its chiefs.
Duson’s last elected chief, Joseph Johnfore, was arrested in 2009 on counts of malfeasance and theft in an investigation into $5,100 in missing traffic fines. He was cleared by a grand jury in the case but resigned, opening the door for Andrew’s appointment.
Before that, in 2000, former Chief Tom Deville was convicted on federal drug charges after he was accused of ignoring a large local drug ring while serving in the 1990s.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.