Rural police departments hit hard by economy

by Brandon Richards bio | email

JENNINGS, LA (KPLC-TV) - The struggling economy has meant tighter budgets for many government agencies and rural police departments, many of whom had struggled before the recession, are not exempt.

Take Elton for instance.

Earlier this year, the chief of police, Chad Carrier, announced he was not running for re-election because lack of pay. Carrier made similar comments last fall to KPLC, when talking about the high turnover rate at his department.

"These officers are offered no kind of incentives to stay here. No kind of medical insurance, no kind of medical insurance, no kind of retirement insurance, no kind of overtime program or anything," said Carrier.

But Elton is not alone.

In Jennings, Police Chief Todd D'Albor, who is new to the office, said he too must deal with a tight budget.

The tighter budget sometimes makes it hard to recruit new officers. The average salary for a new police officer in Jennings is $29,000.

"Our pay obviously in law enforcement is not what you make in the private sector," said D'Albor.

The tighter budget is only one of the problems D'Albor must deal with. He must also deal with a constant overcrowded jail, that's forced to let criminals with minor offense back on to the streets.

Over the last several years, Jennings has become infamous for crime, thanks in large part of to the unsolved deaths of eight young women.

"Obviously the main challenge is to change the perception of our department," said D'Albor. "There were obviously quality officers that worked here, but for reasons the community had, they had some concerns about the enforcement in the city."

But for D'Albor, it's not all bad news.

Reports of violent crime in Jennings have gone down.

As far as recruiting new police officers, D'Albor said he was close to filling the few vacancies there were. He also pointed out that unlike many jobs in the private sector, law enforcement jobs are stable.

"There will always be a need for that service, so the job security is something you don't deal with in the private sector," said D'Albor.

And as far as Elton goes, the town elected a new police chief earlier this month. Bruce Lemelle, a veteran officer himself, will take office as the new chief in January.

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