‘Cop-of-Tea’ also draws state attention while increasing public visibility

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 22, 2004


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A new program called ‘Cop-Of-Tea’ was recently implemented by the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the Council on Aging and Community Action to support senior citizens and shut-ins.

Sheriff Wayne L. Jones founded the program to increase law enforcement visibility within the parish, said Public Relations Consultant Leroy Mitchell.

Mitchell said the program has already begun to draw state attention and that other parishes and state departments are calling the sheriff to acquire about adopting the new assistance plan.

Program Specialist Michelle T. Guillory with the State of Louisiana Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs wrote a letter to Jones saying, “I feel this program is an outstanding effort by you and your staff to reflect your willingness to serve and protect all citizens in the community and that partnerships could take this program statewide to aid seniors across this great state.”

Jones hired six additional deputies to patrol the streets in an effort to create a sense of security within the parish.

While the officers are making their normal patrol, they stop in and talk to senior citizens and shut-ins.

“We want an elderly resident baking bread pudding to invite a deputy into her home. Hopefully she will serve the officer a slice of her goodie and share with that officer her deepest concerns. Thus that officer will be present for a ‘Cop-Of-Tea,'” said Mitchell.

The brief visits allow a deputy to say hello and to listen to concerns senior citizens have about their health, their home, a criminal activity or – just simply – the weather.

“Senior citizens are the fastest growing, least mobile group we have living in the community. We want this most vulnerable class of people to feel comfortable and secure in their community environment,” said Mitchell. “We do not want the citizenry to see deputies as only coming when something is wrong. We want residents to see a deputy as a friend, not a foe.”

When a particular concern surfaces, the officer writes the concern down and reports it to his commander. The commander, in turn, relates the problem to the sheriff’s public relations office and then on to the community action agency.

Angelica “Angie” Asencio is a recipient of the new program. The retired registered nurse said she looks forward to her weekly visits from Deputy Valerie Stewart.

“Living with my 33-year-old grandson, the visits give me a sense of security,” said Asencio.

The 87-year-old Yorktowne Drive resident said she shares her life stories with Stewart. The two talk about Asencio’s home providence, Puerto Rico, and about her pre-retirement years living in New York.

Stewart said she relishes her job and enjoys her visits with Asencio.

“I love doing this. The elderly have so much wisdom. I learn a great deal from the people I visit,” said Stewart.

Olivia French is another active member in the program.French, a retired school teacher, principal and supervisor with the St. John the Baptist Parish school system, said the officer who visits her performs minor tasks and looks for unsafe conditions throughout her home.

“Our officers look for unsafe things in and around the home. They may check such things as space heaters and electrical lines. The officer makes sure the home he/she is visiting is safe and secure,” said Mitchell.

French said she is so well watched that it makes her nervous at times.

“One day I received a call from the sheriff’s office asking me if I needed sand bags removed from around my home. I had placed the bags there during the threat of Hurricane Ivan and had no way of removing them. The incident allowed me to see just how much the sheriff’s department was watching my home,” said French.

Mitchell said he is aware that some of the citizens are apprehensive about the thorough observation they are receiving.

“In time, they will learn we are watching them in an effort to protect them. It is not our intention to intimidate the citizenry,” said Mitchell.

Sheriff Jones said, “Our senior population is growing. We want to do our share in helping to keep them safe and sound.”

If you have questions regarding the Cop-Of-Tea program, please call the Public Relations Department at (985) 652-7058.