BRUSLY — Both candidates vying to become Brusly’s next police chief in the upcoming election want to take a more hands-on approach to managing the town’s police force after a difficult year in which the former police chief repeatedly faced criminal charges.
Both Paul Marionneaux and Jonathan Lefeaux have law enforcement experience. Marionneaux, who serves as an assistant chief, said the department’s problems have been fixed. Lefeaux, a former Brusly officer, said he will take the small police agency in a more “community-orientated” direction.
The Town Council was forced to call a special election to elect a new police chief after former Chief Jamie Whaley resigned in April. Three days later he pleaded guilty to malfeasance in office and was sentenced to 18 months’ supervised probation.
Whoever is elected police chief will finish out Whaley’s term, which ends in December 2016.
Col. Richie Johnson, with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, was appointed the interim police chief until the Nov. 4 election.
Whaley was initially faced — and pleaded guilty to — charges of theft and malfeasance in office for using a town-issued credit card to purchase gasoline for his personal truck and boat.
But two months later, he was arrested again, booked with malfeasance in office and theft following a probe by the state Inspector General’s Office and the FBI. That investigation found that Whaley misappropriated seven firearms owned by the town. Whaley pleaded not guilty and the case is still pending.
An internal audit into the Police Department following Whaley’s resignation found that it was actually 20 guns that were unaccounted for instead of seven.
The audit also outlines a laundry list of other improper administrative practices within the Police Department under Whaley’s tenure, including questionable bank transactions on Police Department financial accounts and improperly maintained personnel files for officers.
The same report also noted that at least 10 of the department’s 17 officers didn’t have psychological evaluations in their personnel files, and at least one officer admitted to hitting a prisoner while not in self-defense or while making a lawful arrest.
Marionneaux, who both serves as Johnson’s assistant police chief and works for the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, said things have turned around in the past few months.
“The current employees are 100 percent squared away and they’re going to do their jobs the way it needs to be done,” he said.
Marionneaux, 47, is a 26-year veteran with the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. He is the commander for the parish’s Special Weapons And Tactics team.
Marionneaux said he also served as commander of the Sheriff Office’s Narcotics Team for six years.
He believes experience in law enforcement management has prepared him to be an effective leader of the Brusly department.
“I believe the recent changes we made as a police department set the foundation for our continued success,” he said in a prepared statement. “Officers should maintain a training level that affords them the ability to handle and situation ... I will dedicate the needed resources to accomplish this goal.”
Lefeaux, a former officer who left the Brusly Police Department in 2005, is convinced it will take a police force that’s more embedded in the community to repair the department’s image.
If elected, Lefeaux pledged to adopt an open-door policy giving citizens the opportunity observe the department’s day-to-day operations.
The 35-year-old lieutenant with the Port Allen City Marshal’s Office also wants to design a training program that will help officers’ interactions with Brusly’s youth, elderly population and business owners.
“I plan to be there every day for the people,” he said. “I want to get in there and really run the department full-time. I think that’s where Jamie (Whaley) went wrong. He wasn’t over there supervising the office like he needed to.”
Lefeaux describes himself as a compassionate person who is more concerned with rehabilitating criminal offenders than just locking them up in prison.
“I really want to help out with troubled kids,” he said. “Just get more police presence in the community.”
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