Death touches law enforcement community
Michael Banks, Morgan City assistant police chief, talks at Saturday's news conference about the death of Police Chief Travis Crouch. At left is Morgan City Mayor Frank "Boo" Grizzaffi.
The passing of the weekend has done little to numb the pain and grief of local law enforcement after getting the news of Morgan Police Chief Travis Crouch’s unexpected death late Friday night from what Biloxi police called a self-inflicted gunshot.
Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle called Crouch, 46, a friend and said “a rising star in the law enforcement community has fallen.”
“We have an unspoken bond as police officers. We love our brothers in blue. We stand together, we hurt together,” LaSalle said.
“It always hurts when your brother falls,” LaSalle said. “I was in disbelief, absolute disbelief, when I got a call around 1 a.m. Saturday. I will miss him dearly. He was a visionary for Morgan City and its people. My flag at the police department was put at half-mast immediately.”
St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert also called Crouch a “brother.”
“It is like losing a family member. He will be sadly missed by his friends in law enforcement,” Hebert said. “Our prayers go out to the Crouch family and the Morgan City Police Department. He was a great guy.”
Duval Arthur, retired both as Berwick chief of police and chief deputy with the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he first met Crouch as a 16-year-old kid who became a part of the now-discontinued Junior Deputy Program with the sheriff’s office.
“He did everything, and I mean everything, that we asked,” Arthur, now parish director of Homeland Security, said of the young Crouch. “His plan in life was to be a cop … I was heartbroken when I heard the news that this had happened.”
Berwick Police Chief James Richard said he had known Crouch for more than 20 years.
“He was a 100 percent police officer,” Richard said. “He loved doing the work he did. It was nice to work with him. He would always do the right thing.”
Richard said he got word of Crouch’s death at about 2 a.m. Saturday.
“I was shocked and bewildered. It is not a good feeling to get a call like that when your fellow chief of police you worked with dies, especially that young,” Richard said. “It is just terrible. It has just hit people in the gut, a soreness. In a sense there is an emptiness there.”
Each of the four men spoke of the ideas Crouch had to improve the Morgan City Police Department and in reaching out to the community in the 11 months he was chief.
“He did a lot of things in Morgan City,” Richard said. “He was trying to turn a police department around that has had problems for many years.”
Hebert spoke of Crouch’s cooperation with the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies.
“We all cross paths in our jobs. Travis was always helpful if we needed something just as we were there if he needed something,” Hebert said. “There was good communication between our departments.”
LaSalle praised Crouch’s willingness to embrace innovative ideas, bring together a community and its police force as well as work to maintain high morale in his department.
“He was my type of law enforcement officer; progressive, straight forward, aggressive, proactive,” LaSalle said. “He brought back pride and a sense of being for his people and his officers. I could tell the pride and attitude of officers had improved. They were more proactive. He reached across the (Atchafalaya) river and we worked together as agencies.”
Arthur said Crouch brought something special to the department and to the city.
“He was very concerned about his community,” Arthur said. “He thought outside the box. He wanted to make Morgan City a safer place.”
Arthur said Crouch had a profound effect on the police department.
“I felt like the morale was terrible but when he got there it changed 180 degrees.” Arthur said. “He brought positive changes when he took over that benefited the police department and the city. I admire him for stepping up and coming up with ideas. My hat goes off to him.”
Hebert said Crouch had “hit the ground running” after he was appointed police chief.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for Travis. He was dedicated to the community of Morgan City,” Hebert said. “He was a good law enforcement officer. We had the same vision — to offer the best services for our community and work together hand in hand.”
Assistant District Attorney Anthony Saleme remarked that the loss of Crouch extended beyond Morgan City and law enforcement as the police chief built relationships with the justice system.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of not only a cohort in the criminal justice system but a friend. In his brief tenure as chief, Travis did an exemplary job and implemented programs and ideas that I hope his successor will maintain,” Saleme said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the chief’s family and the Morgan City Police Department in this, their time of grief.”