PORT ALLEN — In a move they hope might save lives should the community be rocked by a mass killing like the one last year at the Lafayette movie theater, the Port Allen City Council is looking at funding a special response team within the Police Department.
That team would consist of four officers trained in specialized response protocols — something that is lacking now, said Councilman Garry Hubble.
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“Not one of us can say nothing will ever happen here. I’d rather be prepared than not prepared,” Hubble said. “I think citizens would feel safer knowing this is in place. I just hope we never have to use it.”
The City Council will decide next week if it will amend its budget to allocate between $12,000 to $13,000 to pay for the specialized training and equipment to outfit the four Port Allen police officers suggested for the team.
Their training will consist of a basic SWAT course in East Baton Rouge Parish and crisis negotiator training. Both courses require officers be outfitted with special body armor, firearms, ammunition and communication devices.
“There was a time when you didn’t have to think about stuff like this happening, but the times have changed,” Police Chief Esdron Brown said, “and law enforcement has to change with the times.”
Detective Alaric Celestaine, who will serve as leader of the quick response team, called attention to the increase in mass violence across the nation, noting that the average response time for West Baton Rouge Parish’s critical response team is estimated at 20 to 30 minutes.
“While this is significantly faster than in most major metropolitan areas, it is still a long time for incidents in which seconds matter,” Celestaine said.
Claiming the specialized training for his team will put a specially trained officer from Port Allen at the scene of a critical incident within three minutes, he added, “When it comes to an active shooter situation, seconds count.”
At least one officer from the quick response team would be scheduled to work on each shift within the department’s 24-hour daily work cycle, Celestaine said.
Councilman R.J. Loupe said he is “100 percent” for the funding. And Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said he’d rather see the city take a proactive step — like creating the special response team — than taking reactive measures after a tragic incident has occurred.
“It’s sad to say, but this is the way the world is now,” Riviere said.