Lafayette City Marshal Mike Hill has winnowed down the number of his office’s reserve deputies — which had swelled to about 60 under his predecessor — to but a handful. Hill has called in the commissions of nearly 50 reserves who appear to have been deputized for no other reason than political patronage.
U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins and Shaquille O’Neal were suspended City Marshal Brian Pope’s most high-profile reserve, or volunteer, deputies. Higgins went by the marshal’s office a few months ago to turn in his card, badge and weapon before Hill began the process of revoking the commissions.
“He came in and surrendered his,” Hill says. “I did not call that one in; he called us.” Hill says Higgins’ reasons for doing so should come from the congressman himself. Higgins’ press office did not respond to an emailed message seeking comment for this story.
“The Cajun John Wayne” was deputized in March 2016, before he became a congressman and within a month of being pushed out of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office amid the airing of a controversial video about Gremlins gang members. At the time, a spokesman for the marshal’s office told KATC-TV3 that Higgins would assist in the office’s daily duties and participate in all training exercises deputies are required to have.
“He didn’t do any work for us that I’m aware of,” Hill says.
Higgins is now a reserve officer for Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, according to Bob Wertz, the law enforcement training manager for the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement.
Higgins became a reserve officer with the Louisiana Department of Justice on Dec. 18. “We show him as the only reserve officer with that office,” Wertz says, also noting that Higgins is currently certified, and his firearms qualifications are current.
The Lafayette city marshal’s office also recently retrieved the commission card of O’Neal, who earlier this year became an auxiliary deputy with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida (his law enforcement career is chronicled in part on his Wikipedia page). But the weapon issued to the former NBA superstar will have to be returned in person.
“He cannot legally return it except by hand because of ATF regs,” Hill says. “Weapons can only be sent in interstate commerce from registered firearms dealers to registered firearm dealers.”
O’Neal was first deputized under Pope’s predecessor, longtime City Marshal Nickey Picard; when he was recommissioned by Pope in January 2015, Clerk of Court Louis Perret called the ceremony “the coolest swearing in” he’d ever done.
O’Neal is scheduled to return the weapon when he comes to Lafayette this summer. He and Higgins were the only two reserves with weapons issued by the office, Hill says.
When he left office in January 2015, Picard had 15 active commissions for non-employee reserve deputies, all of whom were required to undergo the required training and work at least 16 hours per month. Reserves can earn pay for off-duty work such as security at a mall or football game but don’t get a paycheck from the marshal.
Hill, a former federal magistrate judge and himself an ex-cop, was tapped to serve as interim city marshal after Pope’s malfeasance and perjury convictions last year. Hill’s never been a fan of the honorary, or political patronage, commissions.
“I didn’t like them when I was doing street work in Baton Rouge,” he said. “What these things were typically used for was to try to get themselves out of traffic tickets.”
Read the full story at thecurrentla.com.