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|Toney takes over as Ouachita sheriff; deputies get 5 percent raise|
Sheriff Royce Toney couldn't help but smile when he pulled into the sheriff office parking lot Tuesday and observed that the parking spot reserved for the sheriff had been renamed to reflect Toney's position as Ouachita Parish's new sheriff.
Toney officially took over as sheriff Tuesday. He spent the better part of the day swearing in deputies and other personnel.
Toney said his No. 1 goal as Ouachita's top law enforcement officer will entail efforts to hold down the crime rate in the parish so citizens can live safely. Another benefit of having a low crime rate is business and industry will be more interested in moving to Ouachita Parish, Toney said.
Toney plans to work with the chambers of commerce as well as the new regional economic development alliance to promote Ouachita to help lure new employers to the parish.
"You have to admit, if the sheriff's office keeps the crime rate down, that will make it more attractive for industries to come into the parish and northeast Louisiana in general," Toney said. "The more industries we have, the more jobs we have, and crime should go down, taxes should go up, and we should get more revenue into the department so we can provide more services."
Compared to other parishes of similar size, Ouachita is one of the stronger ones in the law enforcement arena, and that's one of the reasons Toney moved here from southern Louisiana years ago.
He said that in many cases in south Louisiana, law enforcement was based on politics.
"If you arrested the wrong person, you'd get fired," he said. "That's one of the reasons I left south Louisiana … because of the politics and corruption. I came here because we have strong law enforcement."
Toney said politics will not be an issue in his department. Every promotion will be based on performance.
"If they don't perform, I can demote them, and they all know that," Toney said. "I made that perfectly clear yesterday."
"There's no favorites here," Toney continued. "They have to produce and treat the public with respect. But there are some people in the public you cannot be nice to, and the deputies will take appropriate action whenever it's deemed necessary. They will perform their jobs and do it in a professional manner."
Toney said the sheriff's office has always worked well with other law enforcement agencies, and he plans to keep that relationship going strong.
Other plans Toney has in mind include adding more programs at the sheriff's rifle range in western Ouachita. Toney wants to allow all veterans who have been honorably discharged the chance to shoot free of charge at the rifle range.
"We want to give those guys - these war veterans - the opportunity to come out and use the rifle range more as a social club," Toney said.
Deputies also will be assigned to teach various programs at the rifle range such as firearm safety for women, and hunter safety for youth.
"It's a gorgeous facility and we're just going to try and use it to benefit the citizens of Ouachita Parish," he said.
Toney said it's been a "long nine months" since being elected to serve as sheriff, but during that time he has worked to fine-tune the department.
"We've made some changes we hope that's for the positive," Toney said. "We consolidated several divisions … we had divisions that had very few people in them, and they've been transferred to other divisions. We had seven majors and now we have one. I've made some promotions throughout the department and because the department was rank-heavy, we consolidated and from the money we saved from the majors' salaries, we've put it into patrol and the line deputies."
Toney has added more captains to the patrol division to "give the citizens a lot better protection and service."
"They'll always have a supervisor, either a captain or a lieutenant on duty to supervise the deputies," Toney said of the patrol division.
Also, Toney on Tuesday gave deputies a five-percent raise instead of waiting until November, which is normally when the deputies receive their cost of living raise.