Hessmer P.D. serves parish’s youngest municipality

Avoyelles’ “Blue Line”


{Editor’s Note: This is the sixth of a series on the law enforcement agencies in Avoyelles Parish. The series title is a reference to the “thin blue line” symbol used by law enforcement to commemorate fallen officers and the relationship between police and the communities they serve.}
   There are only two full-time police officers on the Village of Hessmer force -- Police Chief Kenneth Smith and officer Matthew Shallington. Seven part-time officers serve to ensure the population of almost 900 have round-the-clock police protection.
   Hessmer celebrated its 61st anniversary as a municipality this year, making it the youngest of the parish’s nine villages, towns and cities. The town was incorporated in 1955 from the old settlements of Norma and Corner.
   Smith has been the police chief since he was appointed in 2008 and elected to the position later that year. He was re-elected in 2012 and is seeking re-election this year. This latest nine-year stretch is his second term at the head of the department, with a stretch at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office in between.
    He began his 39 years in law enforcement as a patrolman in Hessmer in 1977 and was elected police chief in 1980. He joined the APSO in 1985 and became chief of detectives in 1995.
   The seven part-time officers are David Rivas Jr., Spencer Galland, Chris Jeansonne, Jason Starkey, Lecorrian Washington, Jeffery Carmouche and Tracie Smith. The number of part-timers varies during the year as some may leave and others are hired, Smith said.
   The department has a budget of about $108,000 and has two 2013 Tahoe patrol cars.
   Smith is usually on duty during the day, but fills in on other shifts when needed.
  “For most of the time, we are able to provide 24-hour police protection,” Smith said. “The council has been working hard to make sure we have the proper equipment, when the budget allows. If a request can’t be fit into the budget, we try to work around it.”
   That equipment includes body cameras and bullet-proof vests.
   The council is studying the cost of adding cameras in the patrol units. Smith is also looking for grants to replace their bullet-proof vests.
   “We have plenty of traffic coming through Hessmer, especially during the day,” Smith continued. “We try to have a unit stationed around Main Street to monitor the traffic flow.”
   He said all streets are patrolled, but the patrol route comes back to Main Street “because it is the business area.”
   Officers from Hessmer help with the Cajun Crossroads Festival, Halloween festivities, the Christmas parade, church events and other events that occur during the year.
  “We want to continue training with our training officer, Jeffery Carmouche,” Smith said. “Much of the training is done  on-line or at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office. All of our officers are POST-certified and continue to get training.”
   Hessmer works with APSO and other municipalities when needed. 
  There are times when something happens just outside the village limits. Smith said the Hessmer officers cannot make an arrest because it is outside of their jurisdiction, but they can secure the scene until APSO or State Police arrive to take over the situation.
  “I feel Hessmer is one of the safest towns to live in the area,” Smith said. “I like community policing, the residents, if they see something suspicious, get in contact with us. We love to talk to the residents and get their concerns in their neighborhoods.”