LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - This week, KPLC honors Trooper Derek Senegal, with Louisiana State Police—the first African American Public Information Officer for Troop D.
Senegal didn’t even realize he was the first black person to serve the roll as P.I.O. for Troop D until approached by KPLC.
He grew up in Lafayette with his mom and two brothers in a low-income household. His mother always supported his decisions.
“When I went to the military she said, ‘Boy, you sure that’s what you wanna do?’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am. That’s what I wanna do.' And she gave me permission to do it. And that’s what I did. So, she supports me whenever I do...the right thing.”
Senegal served in the Marine Corps for four years. When he got out of the military, he moved back to Louisiana.
He noticed a position at LSP had been vacant for a few years. He was the only one who applied.
He says there’s many things his job entails, “On a daily basis, I mean, I get up in the morning, check email. Anything would happen, anything that we need to send out to the supervisor...let them know what’s going on,”
Senegal took over the position Sgt. James Anderson’s once had.
Anderson explains how important it is to have people of all colors in law enforcement.
"I have in Derek someone who can do the job and add diversity to the force as well. ‘Cause I think it’s important we look like the people we’re sworn to protect. He happens to be African American, yes, but it’s good in that it allows us to be more easily approached. Maybe a young African American man or woman who’s considering a career in law enforcement sees Trooper Senegal at one our events and says, 'Hey! I can do that too!’ And that’s a good thing,” Anderson says.
Because Senegal is the P.I.O., he has more leverage to speak to people in the community.
Senegal says, “Make sure you’re out there in the public, you’re always speaking to somebody, speaking to the media, speaking to anyone that we encounter.”
Though there is tension between the African American community and law enforcement at times, Senegal believes with understanding, he can help bridge the gap.
“We are people; the same as everybody else. You know, we just...we’re in law enforcement for...that’s what we do for living. One at a time we’re gonna reach 'em. Like I said, I have a little more latitude in reaching people and talking to people. So, we’re just going to do it one at a time.”