Home Opinion Opinion: Choose new marshal wisely

Opinion: Choose new marshal wisely

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In the Bossier City Marshal’s race, there are distinct and disturbing differences between the candidates – and Bossier City residents should consider those differences as they decide who should lead this office for the next several years.

A little history first … the Bossier City Marshal’s Office long enjoyed the respected leadership of Marshal Johnny Wyatt before his untimely death.  He modernized the office, joined the Louisiana Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC), and used Marshal’s  funds to donate equipment and vehicles to the city’s Police Department – that‘s the short list. Lynn Austin succeeded Austin to fill out Wyatt’s term.  Austin scaled back some of Wyatt’s generosity, but  maintained the office’s membership in ICAC, ensured the office’s cyber crimes unit continues to benefit from state-of-the art technology and training, and reduced the office’s budget and personnel (by attrition) – which included significantly reducing the Marshal’s salary.

Bossier City voters will decide between current Marshal’s office Capt. Jim Whitman, and Carl Richard, career member of the Shreveport Marshal’s Office, to succeed Austin.  Richard was a candidate in the election to replace Wyatt.

Whitman’s plans for the office are fairly straightforward starting with the priority is to continue the office’s commitment to its chief function:  courtroom security and service of legal papers.  He intends to upgrade the office’s vehicle fleet (only one vehicle has been purchased in the last couple of years) and continue to upgrade the cyber crimes unit’s technology needs.  He plans to hold the line on the Marshal’s pay, keeping it below that of the city’s police chief.

Richard, however, has a whole host of plans for the Bossier City Marshal’s office a couple of those demonstrate that he has a fairly steep learning curve to achieve about the office he seeks.

Richard appears intent on establishing a Marshal’s warrant taskforce noting a number of outstanding warrants. He first planned to hire two new deputies dedicated to warrant service duties (at a cost of $71,000 per year).  He recently amended that plan instead opting to dedicate the warrant service job to two currently employed deputies.  Who picks up the duties of these reassigned deputies remains a question, however.

In contrast, Whitman would use new technology that reads license plates to help find warrant dodgers, at considerably less expense.

Next, and likely because the Shreveport Marshal’s Office, inexplicably, is not a member of ICAC, Richard apparently doesn’t know that he cannot expand ICAC.  It’s not a Bossier Marshal’s Office entity; instead the office is a member of the organization along with dozens of law enforcement agencies, district attorney’s offices and other federal and state agencies.  It’s also evident that Richard does not know that the office is home to the go-to cyber crimes unit in northwest Louisiana and that the award of a federal grant allowed Bossier cyber crimes deputies to help fund training and equipment for member of several other agencies.

There’s more: Richard would not commit to maintaining the Marshal’s salary below that of the Bossier City Chief of Police, and he’s apparently very unfamiliar with the Marshal’s office budget.  Richard’s handout at a recent public meeting stated that between 2010 and 2014, the budget had increased by $14,101. This is patently incorrect; the budget has decreased due to a decrease in public safety expenses. Per the end of 2012 auditor’s report, expenses decreased by nearly $130,000.

Then there’s last year’s allegations of Richard’s voter intimidation of Shreveport residents who had the campaign signs of candidates other than Richard’s boss, Shreveport Marshal Charlie Caldwell, in their yards.  That comes after several years of news stories of Richard’s several arrests – while he was a Shreveport City Deputy Marshal.  Although there were no prosecutions, this pattern demonstrates abysmal judgment on Richard’s part.

It’s hoped that Bossier voters take the time to study the candidates in this race and choose based on integrity and responsible leadership.  Otherwise, it’s possible that we could be reading about favored deputy marshals, vacationing in oceanside condos on the Florida coast during annual “training” conferences – on the public’s dime – as it the custom in Shreveport.

Carl Richard was one of the deputies enjoying this little side benefit – his condo cost about $3,000 and housed six folks. And when asked at a public forum recently, he said he thought this was appropriate.

That’s just not how we do it in Bossier City.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at martycarlson1218@gmail.com