CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - The police chief in the City of Central says he campaigned with a promise to expand police presence. Tuesday night, the city council in Central will decide whether to give the police chief extra funds to run his department.
James Salsbury says he met with Louisiana State Police troopers Monday morning who expressed concerns about when the Central Police Department
is going to start handling more of the policing duties inside the city limits.
Councilman Shane Evans, who has worked in law enforcement, says East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has also asked the same question. Both agencies are doing their share of work in the City of Central, despite the area having its own police department. Right now if there is a traffic accident in the city limits, the sheriff's office responds. If the wreck is on a state highway, state troopers are called. Realistically, Salsbury says, officers in Central should handle those calls. There's just one problem.
There's only one paid employee with the police department -- the chief. The department has 10 reserve officers. The reserves are basically volunteers and unpaid. Evans has proposed an ordinance to give the chief about $55,000 to add a second paid employee, an assistant chief, to the department.
Evans says in his research, he's found that most places have at least 25 officers per 10,000 residents. In Central, there are more than 26,864 (2012 population) residents, but only one officer. And Zachary has 14,960 (2012 population) and 38 officers. Evans says other municipalities are asking why Central is getting a level of law enforcement that they are not. For example, Baker and Zachary fund and operate their own police departments.
He says it boils down to money. Central sets aside a portion of its sales tax to cover infrastructure, but what Evans believes should be going to the police department is sitting in the bank. That's millions of dollars, he says, that's been saved over the years.
"That money should be converted to services that benefit our citizens," Evans said. "If we're not going to spend it, let's look at the
collection of those taxes."
He says if the measure doesn't pass, the council needs to look at possibly decreasing the sales tax. Chief Salsbury says he would eventually like to see his department move its offices. Where they are currently located, has no hot water.
He says there is also not enough room for a professional department. He would like to move into the space that was once occupied by the Central School System. There, he says, his department would have access to six or seven offices.
Tuesday night's meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium of Central High School.