Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now that the Mayans’ threat of the end of civilization as we know it has happily passed without incident, I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas with your families, and my wishes for a joyous and safe new year go out to each of you. This year will be remembered for quite a few remarkable achievements by our agency. I will also remember, and be thankful for, the successful outcome of some close calls by a few of our deputies. As 2013 approaches, I hope that we keep each other in our prayers and continue to look over one another, both on and off the job.
I have been truly amazed this year watching the effort each of you put forth making this holiday season one filled with joy and happiness for those who might otherwise have had a less than happy season. Beginning with the Friday dress-down days, the distribution of the Thanksgiving baskets, and continuing straight into the Senior’s Christmas luncheon, you have made personal sacrifices and a commitment of time, energy and treasure that has not gone unnoticed. To emerge from those projects with a willingness and ability to dig even deeper and fulfill the Christmas wishes of more than 250 foster children this year is a true testament to the unselfish and philanthropic spirit of each of you. I am humbled by the charitable work you have done this year and I hope that in some small measure, these acts of giving have brought you as much joy as they gave those who received them.
We have made significant progress toward several of our own long-term goals this year. Millions of dollars in jail improvements have been underway for months and are almost complete. These changes are the first part of our new long-term improvements plan, which will keep the jail a safe, secure and state-of-the-art facility. Plans are well under way for the construction of our new crime lab. And we are on the verge of cementing agreements with the parish and the state which will lead to the creation of a brand new multi-million dollar P-25 parish / state-wide radio system. Both of these projects should start in earnest soon and I look forward to the advancements they will bring to our mission of protecting our parish.
Following the tragic recent event in Connecticut, 2013 will be a year of continuing our efforts to protect our own school children. Thankfully, we have an outstanding relationship with Superintendent Trey Folse and the school board. We are already in discussions with them about readdressing school security to ensure we are doing everything humanly possible to prevent a similar situation from occurring here.
Thankfully, 2012 saw a 20% decrease in job-related law enforcement deaths nationally. After two straight years of alarming increases, this year will see the lowest numbers since 2009 and only the second time in the last 40 years that number has been below 130. Still, we have recently had two different incidents a deputy hopes never to face: to have to defend themselves against deadly threats. I thank God that none of our deputies were injured during either of these incidents. I am confident that the courage and skill of our deputies – and hopefully the changes we made to adapt our weapons training following the tragic events in St. John Parish – helped them get through those encounters unharmed. We are continuing our efforts to keep deputies in St. Tammany the best-equipped and highest-trained anywhere. In addition to the placement into service of uniform 9mm handguns, we will soon be issuing assault rifles to our enforcement personnel. These weapons have been received from the manufacturer and will be ready for issue any day now.
Again, the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers this year nationally has been traffic related incidents. I strongly encourage each of you to remember this as you are responding to calls on our major roadways and as you are driving to emergency situations. Please continue to keep those deputies in your prayers and always treat your training as if your life depended upon it.
Thankfully, we have not had to respond to any fatal crashes this Christmas. Through this coming week, drivers in St. Tammany will make choices which could make the difference between a happy New Year and a tragic one. If you are on the road this week, whether on the job or off, please remember that their choices can affect us too. Take the extra steps necessary to ensure your safety and the safety of your co-workers.
As I do every year, I ask that we continue to pray for those in our family who have lost loved ones, for those who have added to their own young families, and for those who have loved ones serving with the military overseas. May the blessings of the holiday season be with you not only this week, but throughout the coming year. God bless you all.
Click Here to read our letter from the Department of Children & Family Services