“We’d encourage people to come and apply”, Eunice Police Chief Randy Fontenot told me.
It’s all hands on deck at the Eunice Police Department.
Some officers are getting 20 to 30 hours a week of overtime patrolling the streets. There are a couple of causes for the shortage.
“Not all police officers would agree with my way of law enforcement”, admits Chief Fontenot. He said when he took over the department one of his top priorities was to improve community relations. He’d argue he’s done that, but not all the officers in the department agree with how he got there. That and low pay has caused some to leave.
“I left because he demands officers to pledge our allegiance to him.”Nicholas Cooley, former Eunice police officer
Nicholas Cooley worked at the Eunice Police Department for six years before leaving for another department.
He says officers are leaving because of changes in law enforcement policy.
“Most people in the city of Eunice would like to see it run fairly”, argues Cooley. To him, that means an arrest for every violation of the law.
Chief Fontenot sees things differently, “I bet that everybody has committed some kind of violation and would appreciate a break and a warning and learned their lesson from it and moved on.”
Chief Fontenot won his reelection with 78% of the vote, so he argues his flexible enforcement is popular with the people.
Cooley says police loyalty should be focused on state laws instead.
Cooley argues, “All they (officers) want to do is their job. That’s it. We don’t need that political pandering.”
Voters approved a pay raise in April, but it doesn’t go into effect until next year. Still, Chief Fontenot says five more officers left after the pay raise passed.
“When you have a department with high morale, you see a lot of retention with those officers, and it doesn’t even have to be about money”, argues Cooley.
Both Cooley and Fontenot agree the job isn’t for everyone.
Cooley said, “When you hate to come into work every day, it’s time to go”.
But Fontenot believes, “Being a police officer is in the heart, and if it’s not in the heart you’re not gonna like it and your not gonna stay”.
As far as the officer shortages effect on the department, Chief Fontenot said he would like to have another officer on patrol, but he has four patrolling every shift now which is normal. He calls this shortage just a bad spell and not the worst the department has seen. He plans to do the best that he can with the number of officers he currently has and double down on recruitment.