St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy opened to nearly 50 participants; Some 650 people have graduated in past 16 classes since 1999
Dana Wheeler, Wendy Miller and Ivan Borrero were among some 50 St. Bernard Parish residents drawn to participate in the free Sheriff’s Citizens Police Academy which started Aug. 26 because they said they wanted to learn what police work entails in the parish.
“I want to know more about what the Sheriff’s Office does and about crime in the parish’’ said Wheeler, who lives in Chalmette.
Miller, who lives in Meraux, said, “I have been here seven years and I am always reading the newspapers each week to see what is happening. I want to know about law enforcement.’’ She added, “I see good response in my area by the Sheriff’s Office.’’
Borrero, who lives in Arabi, said he was in a neighborhood watch volunteer patrol group when he once lived in New York and now would like to learn what can be done here to help the fight against crime. “The more I know the better off I am.’’
Sheriff James Pohlmann, who spoke to the new class of Citizens Police Academy on opening night of the 10-week course, said participants will get an inside look into law enforcement in St. Bernard and what is being done to fight crime. He said they will come away with more respect for the department.
This is the 17th class being held since the program began in 1999 and more than 650 St. Bernard residents have graduated.
“I have been in this department 32 years and I am proud of it,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.
Some may believe that being a small parish, law enforcement in St. Bernard has a “Mayberry feel’’ to it, the sheriff said, a reference to the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C. and its TV Sheriff Andy Taylor in the old “Andy Griffith” show of the 1960s.
But he said St. Bernard has a professional Sheriff’s Office that is highly trained and well equipped and has nearly 20 ranking officers who have graduated the FBI Training Academy in Virginia, including Sheriff Pohlmann.
He said that like elsewhere in America, the drug problem is driving property crime in t. Bernard and participants in the Citizens Police Academy will hear what the Sheriff’s Office is doing to combat it.
He said he believes more money should be spent on the front end of the drug problem through education efforts throughout each year in school, rather than spending more on prisons after young people become addicts and are arrested. The sheriff said he supports the D.A.R.E. program taught by sheriff’s officers to fifth-graders in St. Bernard but would love to see it be part of the regular school curriculum in each grade.
Capt. Charles Borchers, who coordinates the class, assisted by Dep. Sheriff Eric Eilers, said participants will get to talk to and ask questions of officers from the department.
Maj. Chad Clark, commander of the SBSO Special Investigations Division which includes the Narcotics Unit and Street Crimes, said the department enjoys good cooperation from residents in its job of investigating drug problems.
He encouraged people to call the department’s anonymous drug tip line, 271-DOPE, or 271-3673., if they know of possible illegal drug activity in the parish. All messages will be checked into, he said.
St. Bernard, like so many areas, has been experiencing a surge in heroin use but the parish has also seen a reduction in drug overdose deaths, Clark said.
There are numerous features to the Citizens Police Academy program which participants say they enjoy, such as:
– Experiencing a firearms simulator program, which has participants react to computerized scenarios forcing them to make split-second decisions on whether to shoot a criminal suspect.
– Hands-on demonstrations of equipment including the new mobile Command Post purchased with a grant, department weapons and a bomb robot used for checking suspicious items are also part of the program.
– Receiving boating safety tips.
– On-site tours of Parish Prison and the Parish Courthouse.
– Lectures from law enforcement agencies from outside St. Bernard.
Sheriff’ deputies Skyler Rauch and Scott Saigeon receive Kiwanis Life-Saver Award for rescuing a juvenile girl from an older Tennessee man who drove here to meet her after connecting on the Internet
As it turned out, deputies Skyler Rauch and Scott Saigeon rescued the juvenile from a situation in which the man had driven here to meet her after connecting on the Internet. He had a loaded gun and a large amount of ammunition with him.
“We believe this girl may never have been found alive,’’ if not stopped, Sheriff James Pohlmann said. “This was good law enforcement work.’’
John Lynch, 53, of the Chattanooga area, was booked after an investigation with two counts of carnal knowledge of the girl for allegedly having sex with her, as well as two counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is being held in St. Bernard Parish Prison in lieu of $750,000 bond.
Rauch, six years with the Sheriff’s Office, and Saigeon, who has a total of 16 years in law enforcement, were honored Aug. 25 by the Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard with its Life-Saver Award for their actions that night.
The Kiwanis Club gives the award four times a year for special actions, twice to parish sheriff’s deputies and twice to firefighters.
The ceremony included Sheriff Pohlmann, Sam Catalanotto, chairman of the Kiwanis Life-Saver Committee; and Mike Gorbaty, President-elect of Kiwanis. Several ranking deputies also attended the event.
In presenting the award, Catalanotto said that more than 10 years ago the Kiwanis Club started it as a way to recognize first-responders in the parish for the work they do to protect the public. “They are the first people through a door’’ to rescue someone in an emergency, he said. “They put their lives on the line’’ for St. Bernard.
The female is from New Orleans but was visiting relatives in St. Bernard Parish, Sheriff Pohlmann said.
Sheriff’s detectives learned in a follow-up investigation the adult and minor met several months ago on the Internet and made plans to meet when she visited relatives in St. Bernard Parish.
Rauch and Saigeon told Kiwanis members they were glad they had been in the right place at the right time.
Both officers also said later they believed there was a high probability the situation would have ended badly for the juvenile if she and Lynch made it out of St. Bernard that night. “I had a 110 percent bad feeling’’ about the girl’s chances had Lynch left the parish with her, Saigeon said.
Rauch said officers could see she was sitting close to Lynch in the front seat when they stopped them but she jumped further away when pulled over. Lynch also initially gave a false statement that he was related to the girl, Rauch said.
Upon members of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office arriving at 3016 Chalona Drive, detectives observed a rake in the backyard of the victim’s residence, a trail through the grass in the backyard of the victim’s residence leading to the fence and a broken wooden fence board that separates the victim’s property line and the property line of 3012 Chalona Drive. The victim advised detectives that the rake that was located in his backyard, which was believed to be used to make entry into the residence through the glass door, did not belong to him. Detectives observed Cortez Hills, who resides at 3012 Chalona Drive, cutting the grass in the front yard of and asked Cortez Hills if he observed anyone around the neighborhood or residence that was acting suspicious. Cortez Hills advised detectives that his acquaintance, identified as Troy, dropped him off at his residence shortly before the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office arrived at 3016 Chalona Drive. Detectives contacted Troy, and requested that he return to the scene. Upon Troy’s arrival back at the scene, Troy informed detectives that he did not drop Cortez Hills off at his residence today. Cortez Hills identified the rake that was located in the backyard of 3016 Chalona Drive, as a rake that belongs to him, but could not explain why the rake was in the backyard of 3016 Chalona Drive. Detectives reviewed cameras that were located at 3004 Chalona Drive and determined that the information received from Cortez Hills was not consistent with the video footage.
It should be noted at this injunction of the investigation Cortez Hills was under arrest for outstanding warrants.
Based upon the above mentioned facts, Lt. Gutierrez prepared a search warrant for 3012 Chalona Drive in attempt to locate the stolen guns, specifically an AR-15 and Smith and Wesson 45 Caliber Handgun.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, at 1:30 P.M. Honorable Judge Kirk Vaughn of the 34th Judicial District reviewed the above stated facts and signed a search warrant for the above stated address.
At this time Sergeant Ryan Melerine, Captain Mark Jackson, and Lieutenant Al Clavin entered the residence in attempt to locate the stolen items. Shortly after Sergeant Melerine located a black AR-15, Smith & Wesson pistol, (2) pistol magazines, and (1) Apple iPad black in color in the attic placed near the attic door. Lieutenant Clavin then photographed the above stated items and processed them for crime scene purposes.
At this time Sergeant Melerine advised Cortez Hill he was under arrest for Simple Burglary, Simple Criminal Damage Over $500.00, Possession of Stolen Property Over $500.00, and Possession of Stolen Firearms.
Cortez was then transported to the St. Bernard Parish Prison by Deputy Brian Canepa to be formally booked for the above stated charges.
Sheriff’s Office to hold DWI checkpoint in St. Bernard Parish Thursday night. Aug. 27
The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office will hold a DWI checkpoint on Thursday night, Aug. 27, Sheriff James Pohlmann said.
The checkpoint, whose exact location isn’t being disclosed, will be from 7:30 p.m. Thursday until 1:30 a.m. on Friday.
To improve public awareness and help with officer safety on St. Bernard Hwy. at Docville Farms in Violet. The Meraux Foundation purchased two signs and stands to alert motorist of Sheriff’s Deputies working the road way ahead. Docville Farms holds events for the public and civic groups both day and night and St. Bernard Sheriff’s Reserve Deputies work St. Bernard Hwy. in the Docville Oaks to let cars out of the parking lot safely. During the day shadows make it hard to see inside the oaks. At nighttime it can get very dark inside the grove of trees. These signs will alert motorist both day and night before they get to the entrance and exit to slow down and be in the look out for deputies working the highway.
“Besides speed limits, watch for students walking in the areas near schools and remember to buckle up your kids in proper seating for their age when driving them to or from school.’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.
“Be prepared for school buses to stop to pick up or unload students,’’ the sheriff added.
Also, the Sheriff’s Office is having extra patrols by deputies in school areas the first week, he said.
“It is so important for drivers to be aware of school zones, children walking to or from school and school buses stopping to pick up or drop off kids,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said. “You don’t want to have a mental lapse and make a mistake you would regret forever.”
Most school zone speed limits are 20 MPH, Sheriff Pohlmann said, and drivers who know where schools are located should start slowing down well before they reach a school zone.
Also, remember to buckle children in seats appropriate for their ages, the sheriff said.
“The back seat is the safest place for young kids,’’ he said, citing statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which say children up to age 12 are safest riding in the back seat, buckled in place.
Remember: auto accidents remain the leading cause of death of children 5-15 years of age.
Young children should be in rear-facing back seats. Never place a rear-facing infant seat on the front passenger seat because they could be killed if the airbag deploys and hits the child.
For full child passenger safety information, including where to find safety seat inspection stations, go online to www.nhtsa.gov to learn more.