BAKER, LA (WAFB) - Big trouble for a former Baker police officer. He is accused of stealing more than $4,000 from students in the school district's "DARE" program over a three year period.
Sergeant Jason Doyle was a man school kids were supposed to look up to. Now, state police say he admits he collected cash "fees" from students in the DARE program at several Baker schools--essentially stealing from the same kids he was supposed to be mentoring. The whole scenario is difficult for Baker police chief Mike Knaps to digest.
"The curriculum that Officer Doyle taught the kids was 100 percent on track. So everything he taught them was great. The problem is this little extra that he decided to kick in and collected money that he had no authority to collect," said Knaps.
Knaps says DARE is supposed to be free to students . It is funded for by the city, and a one-cent tobacco tax.
"There was a letter sent home, sent out from Jason Doyle to the parents of the DARE graduates asking them to send $16 to cover the cost of the t-shirt, the certificate and graduation expenses," said Knaps.
Knaps says he spent nearly 20 years building the DARE program and building up a relationship with students and families in the community. Some Baker residents say Doyle's arrest could destroy it.
"Well it downgrades the trust from the parents and police officers and the children and police officers," said Eric Britton.
"The program has already been tarnished then since this has happened. I just hope people can overlook it and go forward because the DARE program is such a good program," said Diana Averitt.
Knaps agrees the arrest is a huge blow to DARE's reputation, but he's confident in the officer now leading the program.
"I will definitely have my eyes a lot closer on him, and he understands the importance of what he's doing and is there to rebuild any gap that may have been left from the wrongdoing's of Jason Doyle," said Knaps.
Knaps says Doyle was also over the city's "Explorer Scout Cadet" program. He says they don't have any paperwork to prove it, but he says several children who were in this program say they gave Doyle money as well.
Doyle had resigned from the department prior to the investigation into any wrongdoing. He has been charged with theft and malfeasance in office. He was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.