Nearly 100 days in, Julian Whittington is making the office his own
It's been almost 100 days since Bossier Parish swore in a new sheriff. For Julian Whittington, his office isn't where he wanted it to be by now, but he's made progress.
"I thought we'd be further down the road by now, even though we've accomplished a lot," he said. "We ran into some unexpected things, but the primary things I wanted we've been putting in place."
Some of those unexpected things since he took over for longstanding sheriff Larry Deen on July 1 included having to cut salaries and streamline pay in order to solve budgetary expenditures. He reduced the salaries of 22 of his highest paid employees and moved others around to lower pay scales.
"It was the first thing I knew we had to tackle. The number one job of the sheriff's office is law enforcement but we had to get a handle on our budget," said Whittington.
But it wasn't an easy decision, Whittington said he "lost sleep" over the move.
"That was the toughest decision I've had to make. I know salary changes are tough, any time you have to take money out of someone's pocket, it's not easy," he said.
"Having to tell people you're taking money out of their paycheck due to no fault of their own, it's hard. But they took it well, I'm proud of my staff."
Having moved the administration into the parish courthouse, the former administrative office next door has been turned into a building for the patrol division and detectives. Something that Whittington said has improved communication and morale.
"There's fewer secrets if you're in the same place. And when you're all trying to catch the bad guy, it creates better efficiency."
Another move that will affect the lion's share of the office are new uniforms and redesigned vehicles.
The uniforms will have a more subdued look with black pants and tan shirts. The new vehicles are primarily black with gold lettering and the motto "Courteous, Professional, Responsive."
"CPR — that's what our job is about. Being responsive makes the office (of sheriff) effective," said Whittington. "The sheriff is a direct link to the people. There is no middle man."
Other changes include putting more onus on the criminal division, asking resident deputies to follow up on initial calls, believing first responders should know more about the case than anyone else.
"They know the people and what should and shouldn't be there," said Whittington. "Follow up, work with the detectives, don't just write the report and leave. Be involved."
The Posse's responsibilities have also grown. They will now help Bossier City Police with residence vacation checks.
He also has hopes that in the near future the Posse will be able to issue citations for handicap parking spot violations and train for funeral escorts to free up full time deputies.
Raising the ante on what's expected of his office is something that Whittington sees as a necessity.
"We expect and demand a lot out of them. But we have to train them and they have to know what's expected of them before we hold them accountable. I'm looking gat offering incentives for education such as paying for degrees and a raise."
As for changes in BSO programs, DARE recently expanded with pilot programs at Benton and Cope Middle Schools.
"We started it on a trial basis and early next year, I will go to the school board and give them a brief and hopefully go parish-wide," said Whittington.
Having been a DARE instructor, the Sheriff is a big fan of what the program can accomplish.
"Teachers and kids love it. I know solely on its own it won't save everyone, but it's a plus," said Whittington. "Beyond drug education, I'm a believer in the relationship you build with kids at an impressionable age. These kids' view of law enforcement isn't always positive but letting these students see that law officials care about them is a good thing."
The work that goes into programs like DARE is one example of how the office is trying to keep Bossier's crime rate low. Something that Whittington says the parish is very fortunate to have.
"Sometimes don't know how good we have it. It's been a lot of hard work from a lot of people," he said. "The main calls we get are traffic issues and if you have a problem in law enforcement that's a good problem to have. Robberies and murders are basically nonexistent."