GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Talk to anyone in Gonzales and they know Officer Duane Carpenter with Gonzales P.D.
Citizens know Officer Carpenter for many things, not the least of which interacting with youth in the city in a positive way. In fact, Gonzales resident Vicki Vargas first brought Duane Carpenter to the attention of WAFB's Hand It On team after watching him give out candy and other treats to students after school.
"It's just something I've always been passionate about," Officer Carpenter explains. "I just love kids. I mean, there's nothing more rewarding than going to sit down at lunchtime with a group of kids that may have been in trouble. And now they're better students in the classroom, and not giving their mom and dad problems at home."
"And they trust in you," Officer Carpenter says as he greets a young girl at Pecan Grove Primary. "Young kids come up to you and trust you and believe that they can tell you something and not get in trouble for it."
We spent a lunch period at Pecan Grove with officer Carpenter.
"That's a gun," Officer Carpenter tells a young girl at lunch when he saw her admiring his belt. "That's a Taser. That hurts!" he continues his lesson. "That's only for bad people. But y'all are good so y'all don't have to worry about that, right?" The table of elementary school students nodded in agreement.
Vicki Vargas contacted Gonzales P.D.'s public information officer, Charlotte Guedry, about wanting to surprise Officer Carpenter with WAFB's Hand It On recognition.
So Charlotte, along with Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson and Mayor Barney Arceneaux, devised a plan to have Officer Carpenter come to headquarters for a special meeting.
Not knowing what it was all about, Officer Carpenter donned his uniform and showed up at the appropriate day and time. Little did he know, our WAFB cameras were recording the meeting.
"There's another reason that I wanted you hear today," P.I.O. Charlotte Guedry began. "So if you want to turn around and look at WAFB behind you; they're right behind you filming (Hand It On). And here's $300-dollars Duane for all of the hard work that you do and with everything you do as an officer for the children and adults in the community. We love you and we thank you."
The mayor and police chief agreed.
"I appreciate it," Officer Carpenter directed his comments toward Charlotte Guedry. "But y'all sure didn't have to trick me. I could have been better prepared," He confessed.
"Doesn't make good television," Charlotte responded with a huge grin.
To nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On program, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include all of your contact information especially phone number.