LPD police chief presents ongoing community efforts

Published 7:03 pm Friday, October 11, 2019

During Tuesday’s LaGrange City Council meeting, LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar presented results on ongoing outreach efforts in the community.

Dekmar started with some of the known problems that have been addressed recently, including a process that allows individuals charged with certain misdemeanors to bond out of jail on the weekends so that they can still get to work. 

He used the example of a person arrested for an open container.

“You get somebody that is living check to check and has no discretionary money, and they’re arrested on Friday,” Dekmar said. 

“They’ve got a job on Saturday, but they can’t post the bond. So, they stay in jail until Monday, when there is a hearing, by which time they’ve already lost their job.”

Dekmar said the solution to that scenario was as simple as adding new equipment and updating the policy.

“We went through and identified city ordinance violations and misdemeanor charges that we could just cite, process and release at the police department. We bought a scanner for about $70,000 to take the fingerprints,” Dekmar said. 

“As a result, rather than take folks to jail, we cite, process and release.”

Dekmar also shared an update on the LPD’s Car Care Program, which allows drivers pulled over for a vehicle violation to receive a coupon to get it fixed. 

“We went to the different auto parts stores in the city, and asked them if they would participate in this initiative where they agree to discount 10 percent on various parts that became defective,” Dekmar said. 

“Now, when we stop folks instead of getting a citation or a warning, they get a coupon, it gives them a discount off of getting that repaired.”

Dekmar said that repeat offenders still receive citations if the legally-required repairs are not made. 

He also discussed the Handle with Care program, which sends emails to teachers asking them to be understanding of certain students facing difficult situations outside of school.

Those efforts are in addition to the 35 community organizations that LPD coordinates with to provide assistance outside of what the police department can do. 

Some of the leaders over those programs also spoke at the meeting on Tuesday, sharing what their groups are doing, especially for young men at risk of becoming part of a gang.

“We’ve also partnered with the police department on youth programs, providing youth jobs, careers and all of that, establishing the youth academy, where we have young people get involved in law enforcement and understanding a lot of legal issues,” said Mike Merideth, the field services coordinator of youth services for New Ventures. “We’ve had some kids inspired to go on to college and major in law.”

New Ventures also oversees the warming center and provides career training and development to connect people with jobs, after giving them the tools to succeed in those jobs. 

The organization has also partnered with the LPD to provide transportation in the form of bicycles to those who need a way to get to work.

Dr. Glenn Dowell, the founder of Greater Achievement Youth Empowerment, and Pastor O’Shay Smith, who is involved in several community programs, also addressed the city council at length on what is being done to help young men in the community and to prevent violence. 

Dekmar said he appreciates the organizations that partner with the LPD. 

“Fact is, the greatest frustration that we have as a police department is that we deal with a host of social issues, but we’re not the DFACS,” Dekmar said. 

“We’re not public health. We don’t create jobs, but we can try very hard to partner with those folks that do that stuff.” 

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Oct. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.