ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (KLFY) — The small town of Melville is making some tough decisions regarding its policing.
The community’s mayor and police chief are at odds, and the St. Landry Parish Sheriff was in the middle during Tuesday’s town hall.
Melville is a town that has been slowly shrinking along with its budget for decades. It has a hard time paying for how much it costs to operate a local government and police department. While the police chief is asking for his budget to grow, the St. Landry Parish sheriff posed an alternative solution.
“I need to do this for you. The Sheriff has to take over these smaller municipalities,” said Sheriff Bobby Guidroz.
The Mayor of Melville, Glenda Hendrix, requested St. Landry Sheriff Bobby Guidroz help them figure out their policing problem. The town’s elected chief is currently on medical leave, and with only one part-time officer, he says there is a shortage in safety.
Melville Alderwoman April Butler Goudeau claimed, “This chief was elected on the merit that he does not work. The crime level is high here. Anything goes here because they know we have a lack law enforcement.”
Sheriff Guidroz told Melville Police Chief Anthony Moreau he has to do better and be a leader. “You know what you have to quit playing,” Guidroz said.
Moreau replied, “I’m injured. I still am, and I’m not going against my doctor’s orders, and if they want to charge me with malfeasance, have at it.”
Chief Anthony Moreau says he has lost several officers because no one wants to move to Melville or drive their personal vehicle from a parish away just for $10 an hour.
City Aldermen say that extra gas money to pay for their travel is not in the budget, but Guidroz said $36,000 could be saved if the council and mayor eliminate two dispatch positions and dispatch at no charge through the sheriff’s office.
Guidroz said last year Melville Police forwarded 111 calls to the Sheriff’s Office because of no local officers being available. He added unless it’s a life-or-death situation, no more.
“That’s your job. That’s your baby to rock, and if you don’t think I can stop sending my deputies here, try me,” Guidroz warned when the Councilwoman Goudeau said they didn’t need the sheriff to tell them what to do.
“We need to know why we have to continue to pay an elected official who does not want to work and secure the safety of the citizens of the town of Melville. We don’t need all those other stuff.”
Guidroz suggested either recalling Chief Moreau or once his term expires, eliminating the police department and contracting law enforcement.
To do so the council would have to:
1. Vote to abolish the police department budget.
2. The citizens would have to vote for a referendum for someone to take over law enforcement.
3. The legislature would have to approve their decision.
Guidroz said he would be willing to station four deputies to patrol, but he quickly learned the town’s annual budget of $189,892 wouldn’t cover half the cost of him sending four deputies with cars, insurance, and benefits, to patrol.
“You cannot afford me, and I would never sign a contract to do that,” Guidroz said explaining how much it would cost his office.
Municipalities that have their own policing agency do not pay as high of taxes to the sheriff’s office as unincorporated areas. That’s one reason why Guidroz said his deputies will only respond to live or death situations from now on. “I’ve got a big parish, and the people in the parish, I have to answer to first,” Guidroz said.
There is some good news for Melville policing tonight. An additional officer was hired, but the police budget brought before the tabled because it asked for an increase in funds.
Guidroz said he would be willing to contract for two officers, but the Melville council and mayor would have to find the additional money to afford it.