Celebrate Central’s Chief of Police

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By Mia Freneaux

When Doug Browning was appointed the City of Central’s first Chief of Police by Gov. Kathleen Blanco 5 years ago, he already had almost 40 years of law enforcement experience under his belt.  This experience qualified him to face the challenges posed in creating a police department out of nothing.  Chief Browning said, “This was the first time in a long time in which someone has taken nothing – no roots- and created a city.”  This is probably Central’s greatest challenge – unlike any other city in Louisiana, which have a pre-existing structure, Central had none.  Everything, school board, council, public works and police department, had to be “made from scratch,” so to speak.  Zachary and Baker had city halls, Central has to rent space in a strip mall.  Zachary and Baker had police departments.  Central is in the process of creating one for Chief Browning.  The new City Police Department will be next door to City Hall and will have its own records room and evidence room.  The same set of offices will house the Mayor’s Court.  Chief Browning is understandably excited about acquiring a definite physical presence in Central. 

The Chief’s focus these past five years has been on finding ways to perform his duties as Central’s first chief using the most economical means available to him.  For example, with an annual budget of $64,227.25, hiring full time police officers was out of the question.  With salaries, insurance, and retirement pensions to cover, the cost was prohibitive.  Chief Browning has instead 5 reserve officers working for the department on a volunteer basis.  They bring their knowledge and qualifications to Central at no cost to its residents, patrolling subdivisions and providing back up for the Sheriff’s office.  The Chief has also been working for the past one and a half years to acquire another police cruiser for the city.  This July his hard work will come to fruition when a new cruiser will be purchased with special grant money from the Louisiana Criminal Justice System – again, at no cost to Central.  Of the 2 existing fully-equipped cruisers, one was donated by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and one by a private citizen. 

Chief Browning was appointed under the Lawrason Act, a law enacted in 1898 governing the structure of government in municipalities in Louisiana, which requires all cities to have a police chief or marshal.  Under the Lawrason Act, Chief Browning is responsible for law enforcement in the city of Central, the enforcement of all ordinances in the municipality and all applicable state laws.  He may also act as constable, serving warrants, subpoenas, and summonses.  He and the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge share concurrent jurisdiction in Central.  He has the discretion to determine whether legal charges should be referred to the District Court or the Mayor’s Court.  In addition, he has the authority to supervise his office, office equipment and personnel.  He may recommend to the city council personnel for appointment to the department, promotion, disciplinary action, or dismissal.  He is also in charge of making sure all officers maintain their annual continuing education/training.  They will be re-qualifying in July.  He himself had to attend a 40 hour training class to become Chief of Police.  He has to take 24 hours of training every two years to re-qualify for state supplemental pay under the Louisiana Police Chief Association.  He doesn’t take that pay, however, feeling that since the sheriff and state are doing our law enforcement, the money has better uses.  He says he will not take that pay until Central has a full-blown department. 

Chief Browning feels one of the biggest benefits he and his volunteers provide our city is in patrolling neighborhoods during the day.  The rash of daytime burglaries recently has proven the need for such activity.  He stated that “the more the economy gets bad, the more we are going to see robberies and burglaries.  We need to be vigilant.  This is why we are working closely with the Sheriff’s office to get in neighborhoods and be a presence.  The more proactive we are, the better deterrent we become.”  He receives reports from the Sheriff’s office on areas of need and adjusts his available manpower accordingly to assist.  He has expressed great appreciation for the help Central has received from both the Sheriff’s office and the State Police Department, stating, “We are fortunate to have the Sheriff and the State assisting us.  They are graciously helping us at a time of need while we are still in the formative stages.”  The State Police have been working traffic accidents in Central.  Neither of these agencies are required to do anything within the city limits, they are doing it until such time as our police department has the resources to do so itself.  Chief Browning emphasized, “Eventually, either we will have to get a fully staffed department or pay more to hire more sheriffs.”  Just recently, Mayor Watts requested raising the $31,000.00 used to hire extra duty sheriff’s deputies to $100,000.00, which was approved by the council and placed under the Chief’s overseeing.

Our police chief is a member of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, which consists of 20-30 law professionals representing all aspects of law enforcement.  This board is a watchdog organization that reviews grant applications and makes sure monies are spent in the way they were directed to be.  It has worked so well that the Federal government is taking up the idea to see how it can be implemented on that level.  He is also a member of the Drug Enforcement and Violent Crime Board, a sub-committee of the above, which assesses problem areas and votes on who needs supportive funding the most.  He asserts that the biggest issue Central faces right now is illegal drugs.  Concentrated efforts on the part of the police department and the Sheriff’s office have resulted in reduced incidents.  Due to thoroughfares like Hooper Road, which are used as access and escape routes, 90 percent of offenders are from outside Central, according to the Chief.  He feels uniformed patrol cars are the greatest crime prevention tactic, as well as getting involved on the community level.  Toward this aim, he has been talking with churches, civic associations, and other organizations.  He says he is always available to come speak to help citizens learn of crime prevention means.  He is working with neighborhoods to set up Neighborhood Watch programs.  He said it is important to be a neighbor’s eyes and ears to help the police department stop crime. 

Chief Browning envisages a time when Central will have its own fully-staffed and equipped police department.  He is working hard to prepare for that day, taking “small steps forward as the financing becomes available.” He said, “We have the opportunity to do something right working for our people.  We need to move in a direction where we can serve all the needs of the good hard working people here.  We keep moving forward, looking out for our citizens.  We work for them, they don’t work for us.  They have to know we’re working for their best interests.  If we do that, we may get knots and bruises, but we will still be serving the people.” (Thanks to Chief Browning for his help with this article)

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