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Mike Tregre runs for re-election

Editor’s Note: Individual stories are being written for each of the St. John Sheriff candidates. Juan “Shug” Watkins Sr. will be featured in an upcoming edition. Clarence Gray Jr. was featured in the Sept. 14 edition.

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office has an 86 percent conviction rate in the seven major categories of crime, according to Sheriff Mike Tregre.

The conviction rate rises to 96 percent in major drug cases and 100 percent in federal cases that involve SJSO working hand-in-hand with state police, homeland security or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Tregre said those statistics are a testament to continuous training that has prepared law enforcement officers to communicate with the public and uncover evidence needed to build strong cases.

Tregre is running for re-election Oct. 12, hoping to secure a third term as sheriff. Opponents Clarence Gray Jr. and Juan “Shug” Watkins Sr. are also in the running for sheriff. In the event that no candidate secures 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between the top two vote getters would be held on Nov. 16.

As the top law enforcement officer of the parish, the sheriff is responsible for enforcing laws, maintaining the correctional facility and promoting a safer community for all St. John the Baptist Parish residents.

“It’s all about helping people any way I can, even if it’s outside the scope of my duties,” Tregre said. “At least I can either help them or lead them in the right direction.”

Utilizing a recently announced $1.3 million grant from the Port of South Louisiana, Tregre plans to institute updated radios for officers. He will also use the funds to purchase two stainless steel water rescue vehicles and two robots — a big one that can open doors and breach walls and a small robot that can get into areas people can’t go.

If re-elected, Tregre would prioritize the completion of construction projects currently in progress, including the East Bank Training Facility on Cambridge and the West Bank Safety Complex.

“My successes are the projects that are on the burner right now,” Tregre said.

Expected to reach completion in Spring 2020, the West Bank Safety Complex is a collaborative effort between SJSO and the St. John Office of Fire Services. The 5,933 square foot substation will house four wheelers, boats and other emergency response vehicles on River Road at the base of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Wallace.

The 36,000 square feet East Bank training facility, located at 947 Cambridge Drive and named for former St. John Sheriff Lloyd B. Johnson, will feature a 50-yard tactical shooting range and virtual reality simulations upon completion in summer 2020.

Tregre said the new facility could drive economic development by making St. John Parish a hub for law enforcement training. There will additionally be a new outdoor shoot-house behind the jail, he said, adding it will not utilize real gunfire.

“Instructors can be flown in and stay at local hotels. I can invite agencies, local state and federal, to come here, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants,” Tregre said. “These projects are going to better our department. A well-trained trained officer leads to better cases, better arrests and convictions.”

He feels confident the training works because there are significantly less lawsuits against SJSO now than when he started his first term.

St. John Parish officers go above and beyond the minimal requirements for training, participating in stop the bleed classes, self-defense courses, driver improvement lessons and mandated CPR training. The entire department recently completed cultural and sensitivity training.

When officers sign up for seminars and classes, Tregre prefers to attend with them.

“No one is going to say, ‘We can’t do this,’ because I was in class with them. I know all of our capabilities and our resources, and I know our limitations,” Tregre said. “I have 30 years of law enforcement experience, and I’m not going to let 30 years of law enforcement experience sit in the office as sheriff. I’m going to use and share what I’ve been taught with my officers. Total team effort, that’s strength in numbers.”

Over the years, Tregre has worked in corrections, patrol and undercover narcotics. He’s worked closely with detectives and served as the internal affairs director, public information director and district attorney investigator, encompassing almost every area of the Sheriff’s Office outside of 911.

Tregre is a member of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, the National Sheriff’s Association, Rotary Club of LaPlace, the LaPlace Lion’s Club and Our Lady of Grace Church. He serves as a board member for various community agencies.

A 1985 graduate of East St. John High School, Tregre earned his P.O.S.T. certification from the LSU Police Academy. He later graduated from the FBI National Academy and the LA Sheriff’s Training Institute.

The role of sheriff is far more than a paycheck, according to Tregre.

“You have to want to do this kind of work,” Tregre said. “You have to have the heart of a public servant. You may have to give your life or save a life on any day at any time.”