The problem surfaced when two inmates escaped from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, and residents needed to be notified by the EBR Sheriff’s Office of impending danger. Something went wrong.
EBR Parish has a Community Alert System (CAL) that was set up to notify citizens of impending danger. (The CAL System works like the robotic calls we receive during political campaigns with a pre-recorded message.) Other systems also exist including the Emergency Alert System (EAS) which alerts both TV and Radio for emergency announcements.
Two emergency messages came through CAL by telephone to residents with erroneous messages. Later, the media announced the messages contained errors, and the blame shifting began.
The media dedicated itself to investigate the situation, later reporting that the EBR Parish Sheriff’s Office was ‘left out’ of the emergency system.
Casey Hicks, a spokeswoman for the EBR Sheriff’s Office, stated that the message went out later than necessary because they were required to go through another agency, the Baton Rouge Fire Department, to use the emergency alert system.
Scott Dyer, a spokesman for the Mayor’s Office, fired back stating that the EBR Sheriff’s Office could negotiate its own deal if they wish, but that the emergency alert system is limited to city-parish agencies.
Even later, the Office of Emergency Preparedness stated that the Sheriff’s Office only asked to be trained in the system, not to participate in the system. No training has taken place.
Stories were flying as fast as Linda Blair’s head spin in The Exorcist. Also known as CYA.
There are valid questions that the citizens of EBR Parish should now ask.
- Why is the Mayor’s Office referring to the Sheriff’s Office as if they are not a city-parish agency?
- Why didn’t the Sheriff’s Office negotiate a contract with the new alert system vendor? Or another vendor?
- Why aren’t employees of the Sheriff’s Office trained to use the alert system?
After all the dust settled, and a lot of finger pointing took place, we were told that the EBRP Sheriff’s Office is looking into its own emergency alert system.
The escape of these two inmates have revealed other issues at the Sheriff’s Office: According to Hicks, the inmates escaped out of the prison kitchen through a door with a ‘defective lock’. The deputy who took a lunch break leaving the inmates alone to escape was fired. Five individuals assisted the inmates in their escape, only two were arrested.
Take a deep breath, there’s more to come.
The two escaped inmates also committed a murder before being captured. Finally, thousands of dollars and endless hours of manpower was taken from multiple law enforcement agencies in order to capture the escaped inmates. All underwritten by you, the taxpayer.
Normally, Mayor Kip Holden and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux are clamoring for time in front of the media. Instead of addressing the prison break and emergency faux pas head on, they have both deferred to their spokespersons.
When Gautreaux ran for Sheriff of EBR Parish, he made a lot of charges against former Sheriff Greg Phares. One charge claimed that staffing levels at the parish prison were dangerously low. Obviously this hasn’t changed if a deputy can leave for a 30 minute lunch with no relief.
Gautreaux also made a lot of promises during his run for Sheriff — like building modular units at the parish prison to increase the ability to house inmates. That has not happened.
Another claim Gautreaux made was that inter-agency communication was poor, complicated and rarely used. He promised to drastically improve communications and create seamless protection for EBR Parish citizens. Is this his definition of improved communication?
Political endorsements appear to have turned into political finger pointing. Perhaps we should have considered a law man rather than a politician. Is that the sound of chopping wood I hear in the background?
Until next time,
Red Stick Republican