BRUSLY, LA (WAFB) - The small town police force in Brusly is looking to trade up some old guns for new assault rifles. However, the move is more than modernizing the force, it's also about a year-long effort to get the department back on track after a dark time.
The old guns are 13 weapons left over from the old Brusly police administration which was riddled with troubling accusations. Ex-police chief Jamie Whaley was arrested twice on various theft and malfeasance charges in 2014. By the time he quit his post, the department seemed to be in chaos.
"Nobody knew what the police department owned or should have owned. I would say public trust and inventory was the two main things we had to do," said former interim Brusly Police Chief Richie Johnson.
Shortly after Whaley's arrests, Johnson stepped in as the interim chief and the city ordered a complete audit of the department. When it was presented in September, it revealed extensive record-keeping problems as well as a total of 20 missing weapons.
The revelations put the whole department under a microscope.
"It was like cleaning house. It needed to be done," said Johnson.
In his nine months leading the department, Johnson said sorting through the BPD inventory and regaining public trust was his biggest priorities. The process for both took more than a year.
Now, just weeks before Whaley is expected to appear in court, things are brighter in Brusly. The department is in a new building. A new chief, Jonathan Lefeaux, was elected in November. All but two of those missing weapons have been recovered. The department also auctioned off around $7,000 dollars of surplus equipment.
The new management of the department has also saved the city a significant amount of money. City officials even plan to nearly double the department's training budget for next year from $5,000 to $9,200.
"Everybody in the town seems to be really happy with what we're doing. All of our officers were happy. Great moral around here. We work hand in hand with the mayor every day. Really we have a great relationship with everybody in the community. We got to keep that up," said Lefeaux.
All that remains is the odd collection of guns which include five shotguns and two fully automatic class 3 rifles.
Lefeaux wants to trade these guns for five AR 15 patrol guns. The trade would be worth around $4,500. Lefeaux says these rifles could be used in the event of a crisis situation, specifically a shooter at a one of Brusly's schools.
"I'd like to put one in every unit in case something does happen at one of the school. See we have a really unique circumstance when the school bell rings, our population doubles," said Lefeaux. "If something does go bad, we'll have the tools to take care of it."
Lefeaux also says the trade-in is part of a much bigger effort to make the entire police department more efficient and to standardize each officer's equipment.
"Making a lot of progress," said Lefeaux.
But the dark chapter in BPD's recent history won't close until the court system is finished deciding Whaley's fate. His next court appearance is expected June 15.