Sheriff: Academy prepares officers to face new technology

St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert speaks to the St. Mary Industrial Group Monday at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City. (Daily Review Photo by Zachary Fitzgerald)

By ZACHARY FITZGERALD zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office offers a variety of training programs and classes that are helping prepare law enforcement officers to combat crime in the midst of the ever increasing technological advances criminals are making, St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert said Monday.
Hebert was the guest speaker at the St. Mary Industrial Group’s monthly meeting at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City.
The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy continues to get bigger each year with training mandates from the state, Hebert said. The academy was founded in 1974, and is in its 54th class. “Not only do we maintain our staff in a lot of the training that we do, but also with the regional academy we train most agencies within our parish. And we train a lot of agencies outside our parish through our basic training academy,” Hebert said.
The sheriff’s office also hosts programs specializing in unique training. “We did a couple of them this year. One of them was designed to deal with detecting fraudulent forms,” Hebert said. Those forms include items such as fraudulent passports and driver’s licenses from other countries.
With today’s technology, people can make anything look real, the sheriff said. “It’s something you have to stay abreast on. You have to stay ahead of the game. You have to continually train in what’s being thrown at us so we can decipher the difference.”
The sheriff’s office recently hosted a class on recognizing the components of a meth lab. “Meth is something that can be made real simple today in the back of a car,” he said.
Hebert mentioned a meth lab bust a few weeks ago at Lake End Park in Morgan City. “These are just things that can be done in the shed, in your car. It’s very portable. However, it’s very volatile. It’s an upcoming thing because you don’t have to import these drugs. You can make them here,” Hebert said.
The training academy also maintains the certifications of about 250 deputies and officers each year in firearms, defensive tactics, first aid, and CPR among others, Hebert said.
The sheriff’s office employs about 200 people. As of October, the patrol division handled slightly more than 14,000 calls, which led to 957 arrests, Hebert said. The sheriff’s office maintains a fleet of about 120 vehicles and has a full-time mechanic on staff.
Facebook has aided the sheriff’s office in investigating some crimes.
“We’ve used our Facebook page throwing out information and received information back that fast to help solve some crimes,” Hebert said.
“There’s a lot of times we can hit this Facebook page real quick, and in a matter of minutes, they got a name, where they live, what they drive, what they’re wearing right now. And we’ve affected several arrests with that.”
Hebert expects the department’s new webpage to be up by the end of the year.
The sheriff’s office is going through the accreditation process right now. The Commission on Accreditation Law Enforcement Agencies makes sure all personnel know what they are supposed to do by randomly choosing employees to question. The American Correctional Association accredits the corrections department. Hebert likes the accreditation process and enjoys the challenge, he said.
The sheriff’s office patrol division is what has allowed the investigative division to be so successful, he said. The national average for solving crimes is around 20 percent, and the sheriff’s office solving rate is about 40 percent, Hebert said.
Hebert is proud of that number of cases solved. However, “when you’re the victim of that crime in that percent that doesn’t seem to get over the hump, we understand your concerns,” he said.
A lot of sheriff’s office employees served in the military. Hebert said the military plays a big role in what the sheriff’s office does and stands behind individuals who are called to active duty, filling in their spots while they are away.
The office’s marine division has a dive team, many of whom received training in the military, Hebert said. Recently, the sheriff used the dive team to recover some stolen property thrown in the Franklin Canal.
Also in the last couple weeks, the sheriff’s office worked with Terrebonne Parish authorities after the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office received information about a tugboat captain who was stealing fuel and offloading it around Cypremort Point. The suspects offloaded about 2,000 pounds of diesel valued at $6,000, Hebert said. “The chance of actually stumbling on something like this is very hard.”

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