Candidates for Jeff Davis sheriff answer questions about issues in the parish

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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JENNINGS, La. (KPLC) - Three people are campaigning for Jeff Davis Parish sheriff in the Oct. 14 election.

Incumbent Ivy Woods started his career in law enforcement with Louisiana State Police in 1990 before making his next move to the Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office. He was elected as sheriff in 2011.

“I’m just a regular old guy that has been a public servant as a state trooper and then 11 years as sheriff,” Woods said. “I love the community. We’re a very rural community in Jeff Davis Parish. I just like to help everyone out.”

Kyle Miers currently works at the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. He’s worked on the dive team, SWAT team and as a first-line supervisor in felony crime investigations.

“I’ve solved major felony crimes, working with all the high-tech companies, Google, AT&T, T-Mobile, Facebook, and so on and so on,” Miers said. “I can take that technology and all that experience and bring that here to Jeff Davis Parish.”

Chris Myers has a 25-year career in law enforcement and is currently the assistant chief at the Welsh Police Department.

“I started at Jennings Police Department on the bottom as patrol, and I worked my way up to detective, where I supervised the narcotics division, and eventually supervised the detective division and worked homicides and violent crimes,” Myers said.

What makes these candidates qualified to serve Jeff Davis Parish?

“I have the education,” Woods said. “I have a degree in agricultural business from McNeese State University. I was a state trooper for 21 years. As a state trooper, I served on the SWAT team for 15 years, and I was also a supervisor for five and a half years.”

“I’ve actually owned a business and helped a business partner get another business off the ground,” Miers said. “I’m very familiar with budgeting and payrolls, and so on and so forth. I have knowledge of a wide variety of divisions within a sheriff’s department. My whole career, or most of my career, has been in a sheriff’s department setting.”

“After I left the police department, I got hired on at the district attorney’s office,” Myers said. “I was the investigator there for 18 and a half years. I would get called out to every crime scene, so I have experience in just about everything law enforcement has to offer.”

7News asked what issues they’d like to address.

“In this fast-paced world, technology is number one,” Woods said. “You have to stay up with it, if you don’t, it will leave you behind with anything, law enforcement, as well as collecting taxes in the civil department. When I first took office, I hired an IT guy, that was the first thing I did.”

“On day one, I’m going to bring in the Federal Drug Task Force,” Miers said. “I can do that, because of a guy that’s on my team that is coming with me is already established and a part of the Federal Drug Task Force. He works daily with the FBI and DEA. So, can start at that immediately.”

“We have a drug epidemic with meth, heroin and now fentanyl,” Myers said. “80% of crime is drug-related in some form or fashion. We need to tackle that, and we need to tackle that quick.”

7News followed up with a few questions in which written responses were provided.

How do you plan to bring closure to the families of the Jeff Davis 8?

Woods: “The cases remain open cases and are being investigated. The investigations include reviewing and following up on information and evidence obtained over the years, as well as searching for new information. Continue to utilize the assistance and resources of the FBI, as well as that of other law enforcement agencies that would assist in the investigation.”

Miers: “The main thing I will do for those 8 young women is respect them. They are loved and missed by their families, and they deserve justice, as I would want for my family. My plan is the following. We will give the unsolved murders of the 8 young women and other unsolved crimes the attention needed for honest resolution. We will achieve this by having detectives dedicate time and effort to all unsolved crimes. We will seek assistance from federal agencies and use modern technology to drive the investigations forward in an effort to bring closure to families. I will have open availability for families of all unsolved cases. These particular 8 murders have been unsolved for almost 2 decades with no conclusion in sight. Evidence has been through many hands and two administrations. We have no clue of the condition of the evidence, but we will definitely look into it. We have seen more division between the two entities who our community looks to for answers and instead of answers, we have witnessed nothing but blame and finger pointing. When I’m elected sheriff, the sheriff’s department along with federal agencies will not only investigate the unsolved cases, but we will investigate the breakdown of the initial investigations. It is time that someone is held accountable! That should be anyone who committed these horrible acts or someone who aided in concealment of the truth. We will question everyone who claims to have information for solving these murders and the unsolved cases will remain open until justice is finally served.”

Myers: “The families of the Jeff Davis 8 victims need answers. I will re-open the Jeff Davis 8 cases and assign a cold case division that will be dedicated to these cases and keep in contact with the families. My first day in office, I will take down those weathered and battered signs of the Jeff Davis 8 victims and replace them with brand new ones. Just like those signs, the families of those women have been largely ignored, and they deserve to be taken seriously and treated with respect.”

The Jeff Davis Sheriff’s Office has a large surplus in funding. What do you plan to do with it?

Woods: “Fund a new building to provide area for an evidence room, as well as a training room.”

Miers: “I understand how important it is to have the current surplus saved for unexpected emergencies, disasters and repairs without asking for more tax dollars. The surplus for the sheriff’s office is already established, so once I’m in office, I can invest in improvements for the sheriff’s department to the level of where it needs to be. We will use funds from the surplus and replace them as we are able.”

Myers: - “There is currently $10.2 million dollars in surplus. A surplus is imperative and should always be maintained. It is also imperative that the sheriff’s office provide a service for the citizen’s of the parish. Annual revenue is slightly over $9 million and annual expenditures is just below $9 million. As long as the sheriff’s office can fully provided the needed services utilizing the annual budget, there is no need to take from the surplus.”

How do you plan to fix issues at the parish jail?

Woods: “Continue to work with the police jury, so it can address infrastructure issues that affect the availability of jail cells.”

Miers: “We will focus on repairing the jail and bringing it up to full capacity. We will use the surplus for much needed repairs throughout the department. We will establish the Crime Deterrent Unit (extra deputies on the street and also act as entry team or SWAT). The CDU will be a proactive team who will patrol high crime areas within our parish and seek suspects of violent crime arrest warrants. We will also invest in needed gear, up to date technology, deputy training and development, and we will assist other parish entities with much needed revenue.”

“I understand the importance of a good working business relationships with all parish entities and those entities need the sheriff’s office assistance with revenue to establish things, such as a Juvenile Detention Center, Jeff Davis Parish Animal Shelter, etc. We will assist with the revenue generated through programs such as LACE, interstate interdiction with the Federal Drug Task Force, forfeitures and seizures.”

Myers: “The parish jail plays a vital role in our judicial system here in Jefferson Davis Parish. Every law enforcement agency in the parish, such as Jennings Police Department, Welsh Police Department, Lake Arthur Police Department, Elton Police Department and Fenton Police Department, rely on the parish jail to book and hold defendants that are arrested for felony offenses. Agencies outside of Jefferson Davis Parish also rely on the jail when they make arrests in our parish, such as Louisiana State Police, Wildlife & Fisheries and State Fire Marshal’s Office, to name a few.”

“For many years, our judicial system utilized a 65-bed facility that was located on the 3rd floor of the courthouse, which was built in 1964. All law enforcement agencies were able to utilize this facility. In 2016, the construction of a brand new 200-bed facility began and was completed at the end of the year of 2018, which is now located west of Jennings on Hwy 90. Since the opening of the new facility, there has been controversy surrounding the fact that municipal law enforcement agencies within the parish are being denied use of the facility. Consequently, the police departments have to let the suspects go and obtain arrest warrants. At one point, Jennings Police Department had accumulated over 400 arrest warrants for persons who should have been arrested. This does not include the arrest warrants obtained by the other police departments in the parish. Victims of these crimes have been upset because defendants were still out free and walking the streets after being caught committing thefts, burglaries, and other crimes against them. A large number are repeat offenders. Since its inception, the new parish jail has only operated at 65%-75% capacity. Experience is key to running and maintaining the parish jail. As your Sheriff, I will bring in one of the most experienced persons in corrections in Jefferson Davis Parish to be warden of the parish jail. Shawn Simon has over 30 years of law enforcement and corrections experience. Shawn started his career in the U.S. Navy where he attended the Naval Police Academy and spent 7 years conducting investigations. Shawn went on to work for the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office for 4 years where he started on patrol, and then moved into the Criminal Investigation Division. Shawn spent the next 23 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons where he ultimately retired in 2022. Shawn is a lifelong resident of Jefferson Davis Parish and a devout Christian. With Shawn’s knowledge and experience he will be part of my team to utilize the parish jail to its full capacity, work with other law enforcement agencies and collaborate with all judicial departments.”

For more information about the Oct. 14 gubernatorial primary election in SWLA, CLICK HERE.