Robichaux: Walking a mile in another’s shoes can increase understanding

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 7, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Detective work looks easy on television, where every case can be solved and neatly tied up in less than an hour’s time. It’s not hard to accept TV shows as fictional scenarios created by scriptwriters, yet the true inner-workings of law enforcement remain shrouded in mystery for most of the general public.

At the local level, there’s a notion that police officers are enemies of the community who strive to meet their quotas by writing as many tickets as possible, whether they are warranted or not. Nationally, there is a continued dialogue of police brutality and use of excessive force.

I’m sure there are bad apples in the batch, as there are in every occupation. I know there are people who have gone to authorities and left frustrated to the point of tears when they didn’t get the help they needed. And it’s OK to be frustrated with local officials. It’s more than OK to speak up about corruption when you see it.

The problem is when the community and law enforcement is seen as Us vs. Them, or when the word “officer” conjures a mental image of a nameless, faceless, wicked stereotype instead of men and women who have their own lives, families, hopes and fears. At the heart of it, the people who conduct traffic stops, respond to emergencies and pour their energy into solving crimes are people, and no two are the same.

Sometimes, the best way to see from another person’s point of view is to take a walk in their shoes. This can lead to greater understanding and more effective communication.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office hosts an annual Citizen’s Academy to build a stronger bond between the law enforcement and the community.

The nine-week program takes place from 5:45 to 9 p.m. each Thursday and is open to people who live and/or work in St. John Parish at no cost. The Citizen’s Academy provides participants with an insider’s view of the operations of the Sheriff’s Office in a relaxed and interactive setting, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release.

Participants get a hands-on learning experience introducing them to the responsibilities of the following departments: 911 and Community/Public Relations, Uniform Patrol Division, K-9 & Training, Traffic, Reserve Division, Criminal Investigations Division, Narcotics/Special Operations Division, Crisis Management Unit, Fleet Management, Information Technology/ Records, Internal Affairs, Polygraph, Traffic, Correctional Facility, Sex Offender Registry, Crime Scene Investigations, Firearm Simulator, Human Resources and Administrative Services.

Classes begin April 23 at Patrol Headquarters, located at 122 Deputy Barton Granier Drive in LaPlace. The deadline to register is April 13. For more information, visit the SJSO website,, or call Deputy Bernell Charles at 985-359-8685.

I would like to see a similar program instated for St. John Parish Government, where residents could sign up to learn the daily responsibilities of each department. I think it would be beneficial for the people of St. John to see how water meters are read, what goes into issuing a water boil advisory and how officials determine what streets are first in line for maintenance work. The program would allow the community to see the behind-the-scenes work involved in securing grants and preparing information for the Parish Council meetings.

Understanding the processes of the agencies that drive our daily life can help community members ask more informed questions. That would be more productive than dismissing the system as a whole. St. John the Baptist Parish may not be perfect, but you can accept that something is imperfect and still love it. We can’t create change for the better unless we care enough to try.

Brooke Robichaux is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at 985-652-9545 or