The year 2018 has been an election year that featured 5 total candidates running for the office of Sheriff. The election in November trimmed the field down to two candidates, and the run-off on December 8, 2018, was won by Blaise Smith.
On Tuesday, December 18, Blaise Smith was sworn in as St. Mary Parish Sheriff.
The room on the 4th floor of the Courthouse was packed with people and the excitement was evidenced by smiles on the faces of those in attendance. I watched as news media representatives set up cameras and microphones while friends, family, and employees of the Sheriff’s Office waited with anticipation of what the new Sheriff would say as he took the podium and addressed the public for the first time as Sheriff.
Having followed the election closely, there were no surprises. Sheriff Smith spoke of the same themes that ran throughout his campaign; God, the citizens of St. Mary Parish, the mission of the Sheriff’s Office, and working together to make a difference in St. Mary Parish.
As the Public Information Officer watching my first election in the Sheriff’s Office from the inside, I must say that I see one theme emerging from this whole process. It is a theme that I believe seems to be present in other elections at the local, state, and national level when a change in office is the result.
The theme of new beginnings.
Americans generally celebrate elections. We value the opportunity to live in a country where we have the right to be involved in the process of electing our governing officials by voting. Candidates lay out their platforms and appeal to the people for the ability to be able to serve in public office. It can be an arduous process that is stressful, to say the least. But the power of the vote is the final say in the matter, and when the people have spoken, we go forward.
The elected official begins the process of transitioning their platform from ideas to plans. For the citizens, it is time to anticipate new beginnings. It behooves the citizens to be supportive. After all, for elected officials to succeed is to the benefit of all.
This is where we, the citizens of St. Mary Parish, find ourselves now. With a new sheriff, new hope, and anticipation of a new beginning that will result in the fruit of success.
Sheriff Blaise Smith spoke to this process at his ceremony when he said “Whether you voted for me or not, the door is open to you. Even if you didn’t vote for me, I’m still your Sheriff. I appreciate you exercising your right to vote, but I will treat you as if you voted for me.”
I believe these words of encouragement from our new sheriff help to lay out the first part of his plan for St. Mary Parish. These words encourage unity which is of paramount importance to any group of people attempting to accomplish big things in life. The words of positivity and encouragement were sweet to my ears as I watched this important ceremony play out in front of me yesterday.
Maybe even better is the fact that we all as citizens of St. Mary Parish get to play a role in the plans. Together we can work to make our parish better. Together we can support each other as we take our first steps forward from this point.
As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing what the coming weeks and months have for us in St. Mary Parish.
Public Information Officer
St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office
No matter where you are in St. Mary, you’re never too far away from nature. When it comes to our culture and lifestyle, we take pride in that fact. But, when nature presents itself by way of alligators and snakes in our school yards, shopping center parking lots, and homes it can be unnerving. Considering recent news reports and community talk about incidents involving wildlife, we thought we’d share what we’re seeing in the areas patrolled by the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office.
March and April are typically peak months for alligator complaints. Last year from January to this time in April deputies had responded to 9 reports of alligators sighted in areas where they were not supposed to be. But so far this year, among the 106 total animal related complaints, the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office has responded to 3 reports of alligators. 2 of the animals were removed and returned to their habitat by patrol deputies. Another, spotted in a yard, was estimated to be around 12 feet. Wildlife and Fisheries was contacted. Although alligator complaints are down, what we have noted are 6 complaints of snakes in residences and yards across the parish. In most of the incidents, the snake was removed by patrol deputies and returned to the wild.
St. Mary Parish Sheriff's Shooting Range, Centerville, LA 4/28/17
Understanding snake behavior is the first step in keeping the unwelcomed guests out of your home. The frequently asked questions below are from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries web page, which is linked here. The LDWF website also lists the different types of snakes found in Louisiana. Of course, we caution residents from approaching wildlife and kids should be taught the potential dangers of encountering wild animals.
Is there any way to keep snakes out of a house or yard? The best method of reducing or eliminating snake numbers around yards is to remove cover: mow grass and vegetation, and remove trash, lumber and brick piles. Most snakes that enter houses are of non-venomous varieties: rat snakes, brown snakes, etc. Entrance seems most often to be gained through open doors or holes leading from the foundation or crawlspace. Holes cut in washrooms and beneath sinks for pipes are often big enough to allow entry by snakes. Rat snakes are excellent climbers and can get into attics and chimneys. Eliminating access points for snakes is the best prevention. Snake-proofing yards would be difficult and expensive. Snakes can burrow and climb, so that fencing would need to be sunk 1-2 feet into the ground, and be tall and slick enough to prevent snakes from climbing. Fortunately, Louisiana's venomous snakes rarely climb. See also the section on Control of Snakes.
How do I keep snakes out of my house? Most snakes that enter houses are of non-venomous varieties: rat snakes, brown snakes, etc. Entrance seems most often to be gained through open doors or holes leading from the foundation or crawlspace. Holes cut in washrooms and beneath sinks for pipes are often big enough to allow entry by snakes. Rat snakes are excellent climbers and can get into attics and chimneys, as well as into walls via gaps in exterior siding. Small snakes are sometimes brought indoors by pets. Eliminating access points for snakes is the best prevention.
How do I remove a snake that is in my house or car? Snakes are experts at hiding themselves, and once inside of a home can be nearly impossible to locate. They will tend to remain concealed during the day, or when there is activity in the house. They may leave cover only when the lights are out and human activity stops for the night. At that point, they may be discovered in the open by quickly going through the house and turning on lights. Snakes that are seen to crawl into the underside of a vehicle are usually excluded from entering the passenger compartment. Snakes can usually be driven out from the undercarriage of a vehicle by parking it in direct sunlight for several hours.
St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office
Public Information Office
“We need a K-9.” I can’t remember who blurted it out, but everyone agreed. And if there was another way to keep drugs out of our kids’ hands, I was all in.
With that one discussion, my life changed.
The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office has not had a K-9 program for many years. But, Sheriff Mark Hebert knew the value in getting one. The Sheriff’s Office applied for and was awarded a grant that would fund a new K-9 team. I remember the day the letter for the spot came out. I’ve always wanted to do more. I got on the computer and began to research what it took to be a K-9 handler. I needed to know what it would take to be an extraordinary K-9 handler.
The research blew my mind. I knew it would be hard work. I wasn’t worried about that. But it would also take support from the department and from my family. I learned that my family would have to endure a lot for me to be the K-9 handler I wanted to be. With my wife’s blessing and full support, I applied for the position and got the spot.
The next few weeks dragged by as my supervisor, Major John Kahl, went to K9 Concepts in Broussard, LA and selected the K-9 that would become part of the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office. Major Kahl showed me a video of him. His name was Buddy. He was a single purpose (narcotics only) K-9.
Before I knew it, I was off to K-9 school. I trained at K9 Concepts for two weeks. I found out that being a K-9 handler involved way more than what the internet said. I had to learn Dutch and I had to learn how to read my dog. I can tell you it was harder than it looked. But I knew then that I had found my calling.
After becoming a certified K-9 handler in January 2016, I was ready to hit the road. As a narcotics K-9, Buddy was certified to locate a variety of illegal drugs. I also began training with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office and Houma Police Department. I found that those guys also loved the K-9 world. After a few months of work, I saw even more potential in Buddy. He could be a patrol K-9.
The work began all over again. I went back to K9 Concepts for three weeks of training and then trained for two more weeks with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office to get Buddy ready to certify. We had to learn so much more: searching buildings, tracking suspects, handler protection, and more Dutch!
Certification day came and Buddy passed. But the work continues. We train each week with the other agencies’ K-9 Units. On some days, we have as many as 13 K-9’s. By combining the training, our K-9 Units have the opportunity to work in different locations. We train in swimming pools, schools, and even the Mr. Charlie Rig so our law enforcement K-9’s are comfortable in any situation they may be deployed to.
Having the K-9 has benefitted the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, the community, and me in many ways. Having Buddy has given us another way to help keep our parish safe and he’s given me the motivation to be a better deputy. Buddy loves his job. I can’t tell you in words how happy he is to get in the unit to go to work every day. Be sure to say hi when you see us out and always remember that we are here for you.
Detective Christopher Crappell
St. Mary Parish Sheriff's Office
The Louisiana Deputy Sheriff Assistance Fund provides financial relief and assistance to eligible deputies of any Louisiana Sheriff and their eligible dependents that have been impacted by a Qualified Disaster. You can help them by donating at the link below.
In November of 2015, the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy graduated 8 of the 10 cadets who began training in August.
The cadets of Session 55 underwent 550 hours of rigorous training in defensive tactics, firearms, criminal and traffic law, first aid, community policing, and other areas of law enforcement. Under the direction of Captain Brian Charpentier, cadets achieve a level of mental and physical skill and conditioning that contributes to a positive police culture and equips them to excel at meeting evolving public safety needs.
From service in the military to school teaching, the previous experience that cadets brought to the 55th session resulted in one of the most intense training academies in recent history. Through teamwork, cadets pushed themselves and their classmates to a higher level of excellence in every aspect of their training.
During the graduation address given by Dty. Shepherd, the class challenged future academy sessions to set the bar even higher. Session 56, the next class of cadets, begins training this week.
Session 55 Graduates and Awards:
Physical Fitness Award - Dty. Russo
John Kahl Award of Excellence - Dty. Seidel
For the first time in academy history two cadets with equally high skills took the firearms award for proficiency in shooting - Dty. Robison and Dty. Russo
From left to right are: Captain Brian Charpentier, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy Director; Officer Ben Darden, Chitimacha Tribal Police Department; Officer Tonya Burke, Chitimacha Tribal Police Department; Deputy Kevin Seidel, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office; Officer Joseph Trevigne, V, Nicholls State University Police Department; Deputy Adam Robison, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Joshua Sylve, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Ryan Russo, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Walter Shepherd, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office; Corporal Dustin Crabtree, Academy Instructor; and Captain Joe Clements, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy Assistant Director
“Always do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.” These are words of advice I received when I graduated the police academy a short nineteen years ago. They were from the keynote speaker who was a man that I had great respect for. Little did I know then how those words would stick with me to this day. They were also the words that I first thought of when I heard the theme of this year’s red ribbon week. And I believe it fits, especially when we are talking about abusing drugs. I guess if you think about it, there is never a good time or reason to abuse drugs. Regardless of what you tell yourself or what others say. Doing the right thing is not always easy, it's not always fun, and it’s not always our first inclination. But if you do what’s right, regardless of what others think, you will set yourself on a path in life that should lead you where you need to be.
There is a saying, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I have come in contact with many people over the years who have actually told me, “There is nothing else to do around here, so we just get high.” Really? You mean to tell me that you can’t find ANYTHING better to do? Maybe try taking up a hobby. Hunt, fish. Heck, you could take up underwater basket weaving and it would make more sense than using drugs as a pastime. The point is, we must take the time to introduce new interests to our kids and impressionable youth. Kids, get involved in school, sports, or civic activities. The more you fill your life with that which is useful and purposeful, the less time you will have for drugs. It’s a fact; I have never met a crack head with a busy schedule.
Like most places around the country, here in St. Mary Parish we combat a variety of drugs on a daily basis. One of the most prevalent is methamphetamine, which I will refer to as “meth.” Meth use in the area is on the rise. This is disheartening if you are aware of the destructive nature of meth. Meth is a drug that will continue taking from the user until there is nothing left. Meth takes your money, looks, family, and your teeth. That’s right…grill…gone. We have dealt with people who have fought with meth addiction over a period of time. It’s amazing. Not only does meth destroy the body, but it destroys a person spiritually. Meth seems to change the nature of the person’s ethical compass.
The majority of the meth that we see in the area comes from another country. I won’t say where, but it rhymes with Mexico. There, drug cartels are producing mass quantities of the drug and flooding American streets with it. The chemicals needed to produce the drug are not as controlled there and are more easily obtained. What chemicals are in meth you ask? Well, that’s a good question. Some more commonly used items to make meth are ephedrine, lye, camping fuel, anhydrous ammonia, and red phosphorous. You know…health food. This is ironic since if I asked someone to walk over to the cleaning supply closet and just start drinking the chemicals (don’t…do…this), they would think I was crazy. Well, what’s the difference? You are ingesting hazardous chemicals that were NEVER meant for human consumption. So, when meth destroys your body and brain it shouldn’t be much of a shock.
I believe that there is a great need for continued education about drugs of abuse in our community. Recently, there was a problem of epidemic proportions involving the use of synthetic marijuana in the parish. I am glad to say, we have seen a steep decline in the use and seizures involving synthetics. Does this mean they are gone? Absolutely not. They are alive and well in the area. However, the message has gotten out that synthetics are bad news. I believe that this is directly related to the overwhelming interest from our parish schools, parents, churches, and civic groups in regards to the dangers of synthetic drugs. Heck, there was a time when members from the St. Mary Sheriff’s Office were giving presentations on synthetics multiple times a week, to a variety of audiences. I think this joining of the community and law enforcement was crucial in making headway in the war on synthetics. And this success has given me hope. Hope that the work that law enforcement does is not in vain and that our concerns and warnings for the community have not fallen on deaf ears. And when you have these groups working together, doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.
Captain John Kahl, Jr.
St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office
Criminal Investigation and Narcotics Divisions Commander
I made it to the ripe old age of 49. Yes boys and girls, 49. As I approached my birthday this past September, I refused to say that number and did not mentally want to hear it. Yes, I know I’m one year away from 50. Aren’t I supposed to have the wisdom of the world by now? I do have a little. Here it is.
No one person always makes the right decisions all the time. We make mistakes and must deal with the results. The best part about this is if we survive, we do not have to make that same mistake again and can help others with our experience. Stay with me…you have got to understand that making a decision will have what’s called – consequences. It’s a big word. I define consequences as the result of something you choose to do or not to do.
Back in the 90’s, I was on a complaint dealing with a suspect that had cut another individual. In the course of bringing him in, I came across a person who made a decision that would have long lasting consequences on me, my family, and even you who are reading this. That person decided to drink and drive. He crashed head on into my patrol unit. I was trapped. The car caught fire. Friends from the Sheriff’s Office and Morgan City Fire Department got me out. I went to the hospital where I stayed for almost a month. I have had three surgeries as a result of the crash. But, I’m not the only one who suffered because of that person’s decision. My wife had to change her life because of it, my parents changed because of it, my coworkers were affected because of it. Even my kids, who weren’t even born yet, have been affected by it.
When you are about to make a decision, you fall back on what you already know. Sometimes, we may not be fortunate enough to have that knowledge to guide us. We have got to look at what might happen if we do it, or don’t do it. When you’re out hanging with your friends, trying your best to fit in, and somebody decides that alcohol or marijuana use is a good idea, you have to evaluate what is good for you. The decision to use can bring a lot of negative consequences. It affects you immediately and in the long term. The decision to use drugs may bring acceptance from those around you; but are those the people you really need? You may run afoul of law enforcement and end up with a lot of unwanted attention (incarceration, probation). You may become drug dependant. In the long run, you may damage relationships with loved ones and family. Oh and by the way lets stop thinking about ourselves for a minute. What about those strangers out there that will be forced to live with the consequences of your decision to use drugs if things go badly?
The decision to not use may mean that those so called friends won’t accept you. Wow, think about that. You will be forced to find friends that have a positive impact on you. The decision to not use will mean that you don’t have to worry about trouble with your parents, teachers, bosses, or law enforcement. Not using means you will have time to finds things that are positive and help you in the future.
O.K. so the ramblings of an about to be 50 year old are short but maybe not so sweet. It’s all about how you want to live your life. We make decisions every day that point us in the direction that we will be heading. If that decision about drug use is – yes – you can plan on a lot of negative consequences coming your way. If the decision to use drugs is –no – then positive consequences are bound to be in your future.
Detective Howard Rogers, Jr.
St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office
Detective Howard Rogers sharing the story of his encounter with an impaired driver at the 2015 D.A.R.E. graduation at Bayou Vista Elementary School