Sheriff Tregre denies pushing quotas in department

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, December 23, 2015

St. John lawyer feels ‘independent investigation’ needed; D.A. waiting for facts to flush out

LAPLACE — A 2012 memo that was distributed within the St. John the Baptist Parish Narcotics Bureau is being brought into question because it violates a state law passed in 2008 banning arrest quotas of local law enforcement agencies.

Mike Tregre

Mike Tregre

Sheriff Mike Tregre told L’OBSERVATEUR this week the quota memo, which was on official letterhead, was crafted by Maj. Walter Chappel.

Tregre said he had not been aware of the memo until after he read a story published last week concerning the St. John Sheriff’s Office.

“How did I not know about it?” Tregre said. “(Chappel) went to his office, typed up these parameters and he gave it to his people that worked out there. He used letterhead with my name on it and he typed it himself. He gave it to his guys, and it remained within the narcotics bureau. It never made it to me.”

After speaking with Chappel recently, Tregre said the memo was sent to “increase productivity.”

Tregre said the Narcotics Bureau in 2012 was a “hostile environment between officers.” Since then, Tregre said he was “revamped” the bureau and reassigned people, adding things are much better now.

The current commander of the Narcotics Bureau is Lt. Tanner Mangano, and Tregre added the two are on the same page. Chappel is still part of the Sheriff’s Office and is working in the Intelligence Office.

According to the memo “each Narcotics Officer is responsible for producing a minimum of six felony Narcotics arrests per month (excluding drug paraphernalia), each Narcotics Officer is responsible for producing a minimum of two search warrants per month and each Narcotics Officer is responsible for documenting a minimum of two new informants per month.”

The only exception excluding an officer from the requirements is if an officer was “scheduled to work in an undercover capacity in another jurisdiction.”

According to Tregre, no quota system was ever implemented.

“There is no quota, never was, never will be,” Tregre stressed this week, adding the 2012 memo was only distributed within the Narcotics Bureau and not through the whole Sheriff’s Office.

According to the Sheriff, an internal office memo created or distributed within a division or bureau does not create an official department policy. Tregre said he does not feel this issue will have a negative impact on drug prosecutions.

Nghana Lewis Gauff, a LaPlace attorney whose firm offers criminal and civil rights defense, among other services, said she is in the process of preparing additional discovery requests on behalf of her clients whose Constitutional rights may have been impacted by the Narcotics Bureau memo.

“It is my understanding that the Sheriff has denied knowledge of the memo and, simultaneously, has denied that the memo creates a quota policy,” she said. “I believe an independent investigation should open into what was known when and by whom when the document was created and what actions were taken in accordance with the directives of the memo — and by whom — to root out whether Constitutional rights of any citizen of our great parish were violated.

“I would expect the Sheriff to champion such an effort, being the chief enforcer of the Constitution and other laws in St. John the Baptist Parish.”

Gauff said it was her understanding Louisiana legislation making quotas impermissible passed in an effort to eliminate mandatory minimum ticketing.

“Rightfully, the legislature recognized the numerous ethical and legal issues implicated in situations where officers are required to stop and ticket a preset number of drivers/month,” she said.

St. John Parish District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut said her office was made aware of the memo Friday. Dinvaut said she is aware of a “potential situation;” however, she is not commenting until the facts and the law are thoroughly “flushed out.”

“They need to find out what the facts are and find out how the facts fit the law,” she said.

“I’m in the businesses of evidence, and we don’t jump to conclusions. I need to find out what the facts are and what’s the truth, and I need to find out how they apply to the law.”