If voters in the southeastern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish create a new city of St. George, the municipality will be required to have a chief of police. Beyond that, it's expected St. George will follow the lead of Central and, at least to start, use the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement.

Police protection for what could become the parish's fifth city would likely come through some sort of cooperative endeavor agreement between the municipality and the Sheriff's Office. Like other facets related to the day-to-day operation of the proposed city, St. George organizers think they know how it will work — based on the experience of Central — but have not worked out the details yet. 

Editor's note: One in an occasional series of stories on the possible creation of a new city of St. George in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish

Voters living within the boundaries of the proposed city, which will encompass a large chunk of the southeastern part of the parish and includes more than 86,000 people, are set to vote on the incorporation measure during the Oct. 12 elections. 

If approved by voters, St. George would join the cities of Baton Rouge, Baker, Zachary and Central in operating as a separate municipality within the parish. Central residents voted to create their own city in 2005.

Drew Murrell, an attorney and spokesman for the St. George campaign, said details regarding how the Sheriff's Office will step in to police the newly formed city would likely be worked out by its interim mayor and city council. 

"They are the ones that will ultimately decide what happens with the money we've set aside," he said.

If created, St. George would have to follow mandates set forth in The Lawrason Act, the set of governing laws and policies for municipalities that are created without home rule charters. 

John Gallagher, executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association, said St. George would be required to have a mayor, board of alderman or city council, a town clerk and chief of police. 

The qualifications and duties for the position of police chief vary depending on whether it is an elected position or one the mayor appoints. 

"It doesn't say anything about a police department, which means they aren't required to have one," Gallagher said. 

Gallagher said it's not uncommon for towns and smaller cities to outsource their police protection. Many do so because the financial burden of police departments on municipal budgets. 

Murrell expects St. George's police chief to primarily serve as the liaison between the new city's government and the parish's Sheriff's Office. 

Fire protection for St. George would be provided by the St. George Fire Department, which already collects a dedicated millage and services the area. 

Serving as the city's law enforcement arm won't be a huge adjustment for the Sheriff's Office, which already has deputies patrolling the unincorporated area.

In their first-year spending plan for the proposed city, organizers have earmarked $4 million of its projected $58 million in sales tax revenue for the Sheriff's Office to pay for police protection.

A footnote attached to expenditure says the committee behind St. George intends to negotiate an agreement for additional substations and/or police protection. 

The $4 million will be in addition to money the Sheriff's Office already pulls in from three parishwide property taxes that annually generates about $65 million — a large portion of the sheriff's more than $90 million annual budget. 

St. George residents would continue to pay those property taxes even if the city is created. 

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said he hasn't had any discussions with St. George proponents about policing the city if they incorporate, nor has he reviewed any preliminary plans for them. 

But the sheriff didn't have any hang-ups about providing police protection, saying he already has the deputies and manpower dedicated to the area. 

"This money could be used to enhance or increase services if so desired by the community," Gautreaux said in email. "Currently we have two substations that service the area that are owned by private businesses that allow us to use them. We have a substation at Kleinpeter that is owned by the city."

If the city's inaugural leaders wanted to increase police presence, the sheriff said, that manpower would occur as extra-duty assignments as his office currently does in Central.

Central has a small police department now, but after its incorporation the city of nearly 30,000 people mostly leaned on State Police and the Sheriff's Office to cover its law enforcement needs. 

Current mayor David Barrow said the city, which incorporated in 2005, began building its own force around 2014 at the urging of State Police and the Sheriff's Office, who informed city leaders they could no longer spare the manpower to respond to the high volume of traffic crashes along state highways and thoroughfares in the city. 

Barrow said the city initially brought on volunteer reserve officers before hiring actual police officers who handle traffic crashes now. 

"We basically have a police chief, assistant police chief, plus seven part-time officers and we have a list of seven volunteer reserves," Barrow said. "The Sheriff's Office handles most of the major calls. We pay for the extra duty deputies but they don't work crashes. They just do the good old fashioned crime prevention and patrolling."

Sheriff Gautreaux says he thinks he'll have the manpower to handle St. George's law enforcement needs despite it being a city that would have a population nearly three times bigger than Central's. 

"We currently have approximately 48 uniformed patrol deputies that service the proposed city area," he said. "We have plans to increase that to 64 as we are able to recruit and hire more deputies (this is already budgeted for our office)."  

Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com