St. John Sheriff’s candidates outline platforms

Published 12:12 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

LAPLACE — Three of the four candidates for St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff passionately battled it out in front of a sometimes-raucous crowd Thursday night during a political forum hosted at Belle Terre Country Club.

Clifford Bailey, Michael Hoover and incumbent Mike Tregre spoke to the public, discussing safety in the parish and ways to prevent crime in front of a crowd estimated at more than 350 people.

Candidate Samantha Wilson was not in attendance.

When asked what their qualifications were for the position, there was a wide array of answers.

“I have experience in security work,” Bailey said. “I have experience in the military and I have experience in being a leader. I’m not from the system; I’m part of the system.”

Hoover believes his 25 years of service make him the right person for the job. “I was known as the man who can get things done,” Hoover said. “That’s who I am, and that’s who I’m going to continue to be as your sheriff.”

Tregre said his record on the job proves he is fit for the position.

“I ran for sheriff four years ago to make a difference, and I think I’ve done that,” he said. “I have a good department, and I’d put them up against anybody.”

Each candidate had 90 seconds to respond to prepared questions.

The first was whether they thought the people in St. John the Baptist Parish felt safe. Bailey and Hoover agreed the parish is not safe, but Tregre disagreed.

“Talk with the people of the community, walk the streets,” Bailey said. “Talk with your neighbors. It’s not safe. We need leadership that is not part of the system, but from the system.”

Hoover believes keeping the parish safe means proactive policing.

“Do I believe people of St. John feel safe: the honest answer is absolutely not,” Hoover said. “Promises have been made and promises have been broken. We need proactive policing. We need specialized training for divisions to go out and monitor high crime areas. Proactive policing is the key.”

Tregre disagrees with his former employee on his idea of a specialized unit.

“One protective unit to protect St. John, really?” he said. “They have to go home. They have to go to sleep. I want every officer to be highly trained, highly skilled and highly motivated to do the job of a group of guys. I don’t have a specialized unit and the (violent crime) numbers are lower. We’ve only had three homicides this year.”

Tregre said he believes he has instituted different measure throughout his time as Sheriff to keep people safe.

“I meet with all of the sheriffs in the metro area almost monthly,” Tregre said. “I copy and paste what’s working out there and what’s not working out there. Every time I see something that I can bring back to St. John Parish, I bring it back. I have a brand new bicycle patrol, and they have been out there doing a tremendous job. When we have a burglary in a neighborhood, we put out door hangers in the neighborhood. We have a crime map system where you can log on and see everything that’s going on. We also have an app. You will know everything that is going on under my administration. I’m completely transparent, you’re going to know the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Bailey feels the Sheriff’s Office shouldn’t wait for something to happen to put out door hangers.

“We aren’t proactive,” he said. “We wait for something to happen to do something. We need to get back to the basics.”

Hoover said the Sheriff’s Office must support educational systems that reach all levels.

“We have to educate our youth and we have to educate our citizens,” he said. “It’s also about setting up divisions and setting up the right people in the place of leadership. We need to stop playing games and get the job done.”

Early voting for the Oct. 24 election takes place today through Oct. 17 at the Registrar of Voters Office inside the Percy Herbert Building in LaPlace and at the Edgard Courthouse.

— By Raquel Derganz Baker