Ladies and gentlemen of Evangeline Parish, as I stated in my two previous articles I promised you more information concerning how I run my department, both civil and criminal divisions. The Evangeline Parish Sheriff Office (EPSO) is divided into two divisions a civil division and a criminal division.
Our civil division is run by a Chief Civil Clerk. It was established many years ago that the Sheriff’s chief job was to be first the Tax Collector for his parish and secondly he was to be the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for this parish. The Sheriff is also referred to as the Keeper of the Jail. Most people believe that he is a law enforcement officer first and a tax collector second, however you may look at it, both jobs get done. These jobs get done because I took an oath when you elected me as your sheriff to be there in the good and the bad days and these are the few bad days, but we are persevering. I have faith that we will get this problem fixed to you the public’s satisfaction.
The civil division is where the taxes get collected, and then redistributed to the proper public entities. These public offices are funded by taxes and used for operating expenses. The civil division is also where you go for conducting business that concerns tax sales, seizures, banking business, attorneys, law suits, etc. The civil division also makes money by charging these different transactions performed for the public. The civil division is the "heart beat" for the parish’s business. It is funded by a 5 mil. tax called the "Ad Valorem Tax". This millage was established by the rewriting of the Louisiana Constitution in the mid-seventies.
As Keeper of the Jail, the Sheriff receives from the Evangeline Parish Police Jury $3.50 for each prisoner for operating expenses of the jail. You the public are also charged a 10% sales tax on all purchases you make in the parish, however the Sheriff’s Department does not receive one penny of this tax collected.
The administrator’s office and the entire civil division is located in the front portion of the courthouse. The administrator who conducts various duties such as payroll, billing, record keeping, etc. is set up in the front office also.
The criminal division which includes communications, the jail, criminal investigations, and a patrol division along with my personal office are all located in the rear of the courthouse. Evangeline Parish is home to 34,000 people who at one time or another seek me out with an assortment of problems that they need help with. I do try my best to solve these problems, and if I can’t I most certainly try to point them into the correct direction to someone who can help them.
The criminal division has no sales tax or millage to help support the operations of this division. This criminal division is as important maybe even more so than the civil division, but yet the criminal division gets little to no money to operate it. This division is the part of my job that I consider the most important because it deals with domestic disputes that have a variety of causes, thefts, bank robbery’s, rapes, murders, and a variety of other crimes. All of these crimes have to be investigated and this cost money. Money that must be found or generated. If the investigation of a crime takes 2 days or 2 weeks the investigators must be paid for their time. They work their regular shifts, and then depending on the investigation like for murders, they may work long hours until they get a break and solve the case which is never a guarantee. All of these investigations cost my department in excess of $150,000. My investigators always give me 100% effort. I’ve always said you have to love the job of law enforcement to settle for the little pay you get. I can be fierce when it comes to locating funding for my patrol officers and my investigators. I know the sacrifices they and their families make for the job of law enforcement.
We have a patrol division that works 24/7 so that when you call for assistance and officer responds.... However, due to the lack of funding it’s hard to keep enough patrolman on the road. This really, really makes me mad because I wish I could have more officers on patrol every shift, but I don’t have enough money. I would like to have every call responded to as quickly as possible and this is a large parish to cover, but the funding is not there. I fight for every dollar because when you call us I know you really need us. You voted for me to be your Sheriff three times. You voted for a law enforcement officer. This tells me that you trust me to protect you. But you the public don’t know that the criminal division does not automatically every year get the necessary funds needed to properly protect you. This fact makes for many sleepless nights on my part. This is the concern that I live with every day.
It is not only a problem that I face, other Sheriffs have this same fight also. Some parishes are richer than other parishes for varying reasons, for example more funding is available and special taxes are passed etc. This lack of adequate funding puts the Sheriff in the unique position of trying to raise funds just to pay basic expenses and any other unforeseen investigations that pop up randomly from month to month and the promise to the people to keep them safe.
As your Sheriff of Evangeline Parish, I’ve always promised to protect you and your family and all of the citizens of this parish and its people. I want you to be proud of where you live! I want you to feel safe where you live! I hope that I have given you the citizens an "eye opener of information" as to the funding of the criminal division of Evangeline Parish your home. I’m not exaggerating the situation I am trying to inform you of the dire situation in which we find ourselves the citizens of Evangeline Parish. The protection of all citizens of this parish is my greatest concern on a daily basis. Example, the housing of LA State prisoners was one way of getting the criminal division monies for funding of this department. I entered into an agreement to take in an overflow of prisoners from the state at a rate of $24.39 per day per prisoner. This extra money is used to help pay the operating expenses of the jail, and if able it is used to help fund the criminal division. This venture helped us and the state as well. A problem soon began to show itself. As time passed it was clear that the jail was in need of lots of repair to satisfy the state guidelines for housing prisoners. No matter how loud my voice was, no one was listening. The jail is still not able to pass a state inspection.
It was not a surprise to me, when the state removed its prisoners from our parish jail. The loss of the state prisoners cost the department in excess of $300,000.00 a year in revenue, monies urgently needed to help fund the criminal division. The building of the two centers one in Basile and one in Pine Prairie has helped with monies the last 5 or 6 years. I have been telling the police jury and frankly anyone I could talk to that the EPSO was being grossly underfunded. It became apparent that we were paying out more monies than we were taking in for the criminal division. It was also clear that nobody was listening or cared about the fact that the budget suffered several major losses in the funding for our criminal division. The public never really knew or thought of the possibility that this large loss of funding meant we as a parish had to absorb the monetary loss and try and try again to continue to operate afterwards as if we had enough money. It became real clear to me once again no one was listening to our pleas for help.
The first major loss of funding for the criminal division was the collapse of the Pine Prairie Police Department. I was required as the Sheriff, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the parish to just make it happen. I had to find monies for the patrol of the city by my officers, investigations of crimes by my officers, etc. This included the recent bank robbery in Pine Prairie. We had to investigate the escape of a parish prisoner in the Pine Prairie Jail who escaped from jail. Also, the recent murder in Turkey Creek required from us a large amount of man hours to investigate the crime and in turn required a large amount of expenses for our parish in talking with the public I get the impression that they never understood that the criminal division was responsible for the extra expense of running an investigation. Now you know. I hope you have a better understanding of where the criminal division must get its money and how it is dispersed in this division.
All the unexpected criminal activity can really drain the budget. Just in time came the sale of the Southwest LA Corrections to the GEO Group. We had to renegotiate a new contract with the GEO Group for the prisoners. With the help of our District Attorney Trent Brignac, this the possibility of monies for the criminal division came to pass. Soon after the sale, GEO Group closed the Pine Prairie center, and we lost money with less prisoners.
Ladies and gentlemen I’ll leave you with your thoughts. I hope that I’ve given you a better understanding of how my two divisions operate. My hope is and plans are to show the public the inside of Evangeline Parish Sheriff Department.
Eddie Soileau, Sheriff
Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Department