New Port Allen Police Chief to be named
PORT ALLEN - Five candidates are on the "short list" for Interim Port Allen Police Chief, according to Interim Mayor R.J. Loupe. The list isn't official, just names some council members have thrown around. Loupe said all five candidates come from within the Port Allen Police Department.
Former Port Allen Police Chief Fred Smith resigned last Friday after he was convicted of fraud and racketeering in the FBI's undercover sting "Operation Blighted Officials."
"We all breathed a sign of relief when the Chief resigned," one officer in the department told News 2. He didn't want to talk on camera, but said the department needs a strong leader who can help officers rise above the morale slump they fell into after the Chief was indicted.
Captain Ron Coffman is the highest-ranked officer within PAPD. He has been serving as what he calls "commander" of the department since Smith resigned, but he is ineligible for the post of Police Chief since he lives about three miles outside city limits.
That's a challenge Loupe said the council has faced in trying to name Smith's replacement; many candidates are officers retired from the department with plenty of experience, but have not lived within city limits for a year.
City rules mandate any candidate for police chief must live within city limits and have maintained a residence there for at least a year.
Jason Hammack sees pros and cons to someone from Port Allen serving as chief. Someone from out of the area may have new ideas, but someone from the area may know other elected officials and find it easier to work with them, Hammack said.
"In a significant way, [Smith] betrayed the trust of the community," Hammack said. He was one of the people who supported Fred Smith during his election campaign.
"We just want somebody that's gonna be honest," Hammack said.
Whoever is named at the special City Council meeting around 6:30 Wednesday night will remain Interim Police Chief until a special election in March.