Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2010



LAPLACE – When you are the man who has all the information regarding a criminal case, it is sometimes hard to determine what needs to be released and what can’t be released. That is the struggle facing Capt. Dane Clement of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office nearly everyday.

Clement, 47, is entering his second year as public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. He’s the man that handles media requests for information on the criminal activity affecting all areas of St. John Parish.

“There is always a new challenge or a new question that I haven’t dealt with before,” Clement said. “There is a lot to deal with and a lot to think about, but it is always very exciting.”

Clement spends his mornings surveying the daily incident and arrest reports in anticipation of requests for information from the local media outlets. At that point, he digs deeper into the report and gathers information from reporting officers and any detectives working the case to see where they are or where they are headed with any investigation.

“That is where the challenges begin to crop up,” Clement said. “I want all of my information to be fair and accurate, but I have to make sure that I don’t divulge information that could compromise a case or hinder proper prosecution. You don’t want to appear as if you are withholding information, but you also don’t want to go too far.”

Clement cites an example from an article hanging in his office about the investigation into the slaying of a Yale graduate student early last year. The article explains police intended to release further details but held back at the last minute out of concern it could hinder investigators. Clement said secrecy can help police prevent fabrication when they confront possible suspects who lack information on the crime.

“You don’t want information to get out early that could help you later on,” Clement said. “One witness may know one thing that another witness has no knowledge of. It is a delicate balance. That is why I always check and double check with investigators.”

Clement said he was born and raised in the LaPlace area. He said outside of his schooling at De LaSalle High School and the University of New Orleans, he has spent most of his time in St. John Parish. Prior to joining the Sheriff’s Office in 1996 as a member of the Community Relations Division, Clement was full-time manager of St. John Memorial Gardens Cemetery, where he still maintains a lesser degree of involvement.

“I was hired about the same time as Sheriff (Wayne) Jones,” Clement said. “I had been doing a lot of work in the community, and the Sheriff asked me to join the staff. It was just a good time for me to make a transition from private business.”

Clement spent about six years in community relations, where he managed a number of community projects, including the re-energizing of the National Night Out Against Crime initiative.

“The parish had participated in the program in the past but we came together to give it more of a jump start. After that, the parties exploded in size and number.”

Clement worked another six years in the Narcotics Division working to develop cases on individuals being investigated by agents. In that time, he also worked as a stand-in public information officer when previous PIO Mike Tregre was out of office.

When Tregre was transferred to District Attorney Tom Daley’s office, Clement took over full time.

“It was a bit of trial by fire,” Clement said. “I went through one class, then it was right into work doing what I do now.”

Clement lives in LaPlace with his wife Ann and two boys, Zachary, 17, and Brennan, 14. When he is not at work at the Sheriff’s Office or at the cemetery, Clement said he enjoys indulging in New Orleans music, festivals, restaurants and Saints football.