Thomas Glover Sr. is wasting no time at the Lafayette Police Department.

Glover assumed his new role as police chief at noon Dec. 31 after being chosen by Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory from a pool of three finalists, including two local officers. Glover, who served more than 36 years at the Dallas Police Department, said he’s been charmed by the city’s neighborhoods, the hospitality of residents and the region’s culture.

The longtime Grand Prairie, Texas, resident, born and raised in northeast Louisiana, said he hasn’t been treated like an outsider; on the contrary, people have been “awfully friendly” and enthusiastically offered support for his vision.

“I’ve not second-guessed myself, not one time….Since I’ve been here, things have been happening that have reinforced my decision to come. People are willing to join forces and join hands with the police department to solve any issues we might have that affect the community, whether they’re law enforcement-based or community-based,” Glover said.

The response from department officers has been similarly energetic, he said. Officers of all ranks have been pulling the new chief aside in his first 10 days to share ideas and concerns, and bring the chief up to speed on the existing department culture. Glover said he’s been impressed by the officers’ commitment to hard work, brainstorming and not resting on routine.

“There’s no deficit of ideas,” he said.

“The assessment I’ve made of the police department is that they’re ready, they want to move forward,” Glover said.

The new chief has already set aggressive goals for himself for his first 30 days in office, including meetings with elected officials, the faith community, officers and social justice advocates to determine community priorities for the department, establishing relationships with surrounding law enforcement agencies, and organizing a multi-level officer advisory committee within the department.

Community lies at the heart of his long-term goals for the department.

“Long term, I want to see Lafayette as a police department be one of the most professional in the nation. I know it’s professional now, but I mean to the point where there is no doubt every citizen, when they come across a Lafayette police officer or they call the Lafayette Police Department, they understand I am getting a level-one, tier-one law enforcement officer. There is no doubt,” Glover said.

Ensuring dignity in all interactions with the community is at the core of Glover’s community relations approach, but the new chief also has tangible policies and programs he’s considering to boost trust between residents and officers.

Glover said he wants positive, self-initiated interactions with the community to be documented and incorporated into officers’ reviews. Positive interactions, such as speaking with neighbors while patrolling a neighborhood on foot or visiting a business in their zone to discuss proactive safety measures, should be valued as highly as traffic enforcement on a speeding driver or arresting someone for a crime, he said.

Glover is also interested in starting a junior police academy to introduce children to policing, establish a comfort level and build a diverse base of interested parties for future recruiting. The academy concept will also extend to adults; Glover is exploring hosting a citizen’s police academy to provide interested residents a first-hand training experience in things like traffic stops, range training, de-escalation and use of force to improve understanding of law enforcement’s functions and officers’ perspectives.

“The more you build and forge those relationships...the less crime we’ll have because citizens are going to feel they’re part of the solution and will start reaching out,” he said.

Tensions between the community and the department have risen since the August death of 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin, who was shot and killed by Lafayette police officers at a gas station off the Evangeline Thruway after a prolonged foot pursuit. Investigators said he had a knife at the time of the shooting; the case remains under investigation.

Glover said he knows how to be part of the solution rebuilding community trust and weeding out bad police practices and culture after his time in Dallas.

In the late 1980s, the Dallas Police Department was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for excessive use of deadly force. Glover was part of an association that informed the revision of their use of force and deadly force policies, and later hosted a weekly radio call-in program to hear resident concerns, eased the process for residents to file complaints and hosted sit-downs with social justice advocates.

In his final two years with the department, Glover collaborated with more than 200 groups on community policing work in an area of 180,000 people, which included a large African American population and many residents who lived below the poverty line. He said he’s seen firsthand how bringing the community to the table can improve policing.

“Taxpayers are often sought after to vote and pass legislation on public safety, pay raises, better benefits and enhancing pension and retirement. I think that same thing transposes over where they should also have input on how we police and what we should not be doing,” Glover said.

Clear reporting structures and efficient organization within the department are also top priorities for the chief as he reviews department functioning from the top down. Glover said it’s important all officers have a defined main supervisor they report to, that supervisors’ roles are separate and distinct, and that supervisors in similar positions oversee roughly equal numbers of subordinates. The new chief said he’s found room for improvement.

Glover said he plans to review staffing at the city’s four precincts to ensure equitable distribution of manpower and resources, while looking for opportunities to re-allocate duties that can be handled by non-sworn employees to get more officers on patrol shifts. Any large organizational changes will be considered with careful research and input from command, he said.

On the new chief’s to-do list is also a full-time SWAT team that will conduct intelligence research to identify and subvert fringe elements in the community, in addition to deploying in high-risk situations, and education initiatives to instruct the community on how to harden targets like vehicles, homes and businesses to reduce opportunities for crime.

He specifically cited property crime and burglaries as crime categories that could be reduced through smart proactive behavior by community members with department help.

“[Crime fighting] involves vigilance from everybody, all the citizens, not just the police officers. We have probably 280 or 290 officers in uniform but we’ve got 132,000 citizens. I believe that those 132,000 citizens fully engaged in the fight against crime are just as valuable as having those 280 or 290 police officers give you 110%,” Glover said.


Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com