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Acadiana Lifestyle

The New Iberia Police Department

07/10/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Christy Quebedeaux

By Scott Brazda

July 1, 2018. Six a.m.

And the new New Iberia Police Department is officially open for business.  “When that first call for service comes in,” laughs Police Chief Todd D’Albor, “our officers might fight to go out on that; there’s that much excitement about what’s about to happen here.”

It’s been a long time coming, this return of the New Iberia Police Department  - 14 years in fact.  Credit the belief of residents that the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s office couldn’t do it alone, that a police department was indeed needed and that a department-funding, half-cent sales tax should be passed in October 2017 for the greater good. 

“I think it’s a catalyst for change of the entire city,” says New Iberia Mayor Freddie Decourt, who made resurrecting the New Iberia P.D. a foundation of his campaign.  “We know we have crime issues, but we also have lots of good things happening here, too.  I think bringing back our police department will protect the good neighborhoods and help change the bad ones.”

“Like I said, our police department will be a catalyst for so many positive things.”

Positive things. Good things. Uplifting things. Things most definitely endorsed by the Iberia Industrial Development Foundation (IDF).  “I think by having a safer community, it will help us continue to build and grow,” explains IDF Director Mike Tarantino.  “Businesses want to come into communities where the assets are safe, and where their employees can live in a safer environment.  Building on good law enforcement is step one.”

But Tarantino is quick to point out that the reconstituted Iberia Police Department won’t necessarily be better than the existing Sheriff’s Department, but rather be another piece to the puzzle.  “We’ve already got a lot of hard-working law enforcement personnel in our community, and our police department adds another complementary layer to that.”

It all keeps coming back to the word, and the concept of safety.  The plan is for city and parish to coexist, this time on the law enforcement front.  The duties are the same, feels Iberia Parish President Larry Richard; same, yet different. “I certainly agree that the number one concern within the city, within the parish, is indeed safety.  Bringing the City Police back will do exactly that within the city; city enforcement, naturally, is what they do. And having the Police back within the city, will simultaneously allow the Sheriff’s Department to do what it does best, particularly within the rural areas. I just think having the two departments, working side-by-side and helping each other out when necessary, will benefit the entire parish tremendously.”

The theme is there, as is the over-riding reason for bringing back the New Iberia Police Department.  But building a dormant, nay, non-existent police department can’t be done with a simple snap of a finger.  “I agree 100 percent with that,” says D’Albor.  “But there’s such energy coming from Mayor Decourt, and he’s got me ready to jump and go to work.  Plus, the way he and Larry (Richard) work together, it’s so refreshing to see all of these relationships coming together with one purpose in mind: Keeping the people safe.”

D’Albor’s been ready to go for some time, and he’s put together a talented, experienced and diverse staff.  “Two of my very talented captains are back, and we’ve got longtime veterans from Lafayette, and another officer who worked for both the Houston and New Orleans Police Departments.”  But being diverse wasn’t D’Albor’s main goal.  “We decided from the beginning that we would interview and hire the most qualified people, officers who know what it takes to keep their friends and neighbors safe, and we think we’ve got that:  Men, women, black, white—over 70 officers who will go out there and quickly earn the people’s trust.”

Trust is what D’Albor has from Iberia leadership, both on the city and parish levels. “Chief D’Albor seems very competent, and he has a plan for getting the Police Department up and running,” explains Richard.  “That will lead to the building of infrastructure, and safety is certainly the first step.  I believe Chief D’Albor will quickly earn that trust from our residents.”

Tarantino concurs.  “I think the Police Department, under Chief D’Albor’s leadership, will be immediately out there, interacting with the citizenry and will become part of the fabric that makes up New Iberia’s present and future.  The Chief is a great law enforcement professional who’s made it clear he is all about ‘community policing.’”

That collective term—community policing—is at the hub of D’Albor’s plan.  “’Community policing’ means engaging our community, helping the community, building trust and being approachable,” he explains.  “And how do you do that?  You become ‘one’ with your people, and you let them know that if they call us, they will then see our officers go out and do it.  That’s how you build trust: you actually show up when they call you and you show them you care.  We’ll do a lot more than just drive by every five or six hours.”

What’s been fun to watch, says Decourt, has been watching D’Albor’s team jell, even before they’ve actually been sworn in.  “This is the beginning of a turning point in New Iberia, and it’s really much bigger than just starting a police department from scratch, way bigger than interviewing over 150 people and putting together a team of over 70.  It’s a sign that our home—mine, the Chief’s, his officers’—is turning the corner.”

In many ways, D’Albor seems like a proud father, especially when he tells the tale of officers going the extra mile even before they’re actually out on the streets of New Iberia.  “We already have eleven officers coming in to help us get started,” he smiles.  “They’re volunteering, moving desks and just helping out; two, in fact, have already taken vacation, because they don’t want to miss a day when we get this thing rolling on July 1.  They’re excited and ready.  I’m ready.”

D’Albor will break the city into districts, and have officers in those districts get the word out one-by-one.  He says he expects interaction between his department and the Sheriff’s Department to go smoothly, that officers on both sides want to see the new Police Department succeed, and that it will truly be ‘win-win.’  “For all of us, it’s getting the public to trust in and communicate with you, and subsequently, work alongside you.  That’s in the city and the parish.  That’s in our home and making that home a better place.”

The new era dawns in New Iberia with the swearing in of officers on June 19th, followed by just under two weeks of training. The big day, though, is that aforementioned first day of July.  That’s the day, says Decourt, the New Iberia Police Department… goes hot.  “You’ll first see positive news on criminal activity with some proactive law enforcement.  We’ll send a message that things are changing, and then, it won’t be just a message.  It will be happening.”

“I can’t wait,” smiles D’Albor, “I just can’t wait.” Sure, he says, there will be a few hiccups when things begin, “But we’ll move through them, hold people accountable and move through them.  We’re going to get it right.”

“The community will be proud of what they’re allowing us to do… for the place we call ‘home’.”

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