October 2, 2017

A letter from a Police Officer to the Citizens of the City of Lafayette:

As I sit here tonight mourning the loss of my friend and brother, Cpl. Michael Middlebrook, I have to pause and ask myself could this have been avoided?  Could this tragedy have been stopped?  Could Michael be at home right now holding his three-year-old daughter in his arms?  Eating dinner and watching a movie with his wife?  The simple answer is YES.

For too long most of the media as a whole has tried to demonize and dehumanize police officers.  It was experienced firsthand here just a few months ago when a police officer was responding to an almost riotous incident. In the process of making an arrest on a resisting suspect the officer took him down swiftly, causing minimal injury to the suspect and the officer, and a certain reporter on [a Lafayette television station] decided he would get better ratings by painting it as a race issue because the police officer happened to be white and the suspect happened to be African American.   This kind of selective reporting causes people who may already not have a high opinion of law enforcement to become even more enraged.  What has not been reported is that Cpl. Middlebrook was not shot in a “shootout” or struggle or even in a way where he had a chance to return fire.  He was intentionally drawn into that convenient store where he was assassinated while trying to help victims of his killer.

I cannot just blame the media though for these events.  For the last 15 years, the leaders in the City of Lafayette have not increased the number of police officers on the road but they have instead decreased them.  In a time frame where crime has skyrocketed in Lafayette, our community leaders have decided that we needed fewer police officers on the street to deal with that growing threat.  Just as recently as last month when the city of Lafayette had found “extra” money in their budget they choose to reallocate it toward tourism when they could have used that to put more police officers on our streets.  Every single night that we work dispatchers send police officers to in progress calls by themselves because we simply don’t have enough people.  They will ask for any available unit to go with that officer and get no response because we just don’t have enough police officers.

Just today Las Vegas experienced the worst of what could happen in a city when a deranged person with a gun decides he wants to do harm.  If that happened in Lafayette would we have the resources to respond?  Your current leaders will tell you, yes, but I can tell you the police officers on the ground know that we don’t.   We cannot currently provide the necessary manpower to keep our citizens safe every weekend downtown.  We definitely cannot keep our citizens safe during Festival International and Mardi Gras.

We now know better to say “it will never happen here” because it already did.  Remember The Grand Theater shooting just a couple so summers ago.  The only thing that stopped the shooter from creating more carnage is four Lafayette Police Officers were on scene approximately 30 seconds after the call was dispatched began running toward the shooter to end his carnage.  Every investigator and expert involved in the case has agreed that it was the quick action of these officers that forced this cowardly murderer to not face the police but to take his own life.  Just this past Festival two individuals were shot with one dying from his injuries.  Once again my brother and sister in blue ran toward the gunfire while everyone else was running away.

Maybe if we had more officers we could prevent this senseless increase in crime in our city.  Maybe if the council wouldn’t be focused on their own pay raises (since 2011 they have given themselves a 25% increase paying council member over $30,000 for going to work once a week for a couple of hours) while decreasing the number of police officers on the street and cutting police officers starting pay.  Maybe in CFO Laurie Toups hadn't lobbied for her own almost 20% pay raise in the same time frame and the mayor's pay raise had not gone up by about the same percentage, we could hire more police officers.  I would ask anyone that lives and cares about our city to contact our leaders and tell them WE NEED MORE POLICE OFFICERS NOW.

Both Chief Augullard and Deputy Chief Thomas for have pushed for more officer and after a grant program they were able to get the city to agree to hire 10 additional officers BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH.  WE need at least an additional 40 officers to get this city back to a point where it is again safe for our citizens and our police officers to do their jobs.   If this doesn’t happen we will continue to experience tragedy in our city and your Lafayette Police Officer’s hands will be tied to do anything about it.  People call us when they are at their lowest and need help; we are now calling you, The People of Lafayette, while we are at our lowest.  WE NEED YOUR HELP.  Only you can pressure our government to adequately fund the Lafayette Police Department so we can hire and train a substantial amount of officer so the police working your streets feel like they can do so keeping you safe and keeping their brother and sisters in blue safe.

A Lafayette Police Officer and brother of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook.


Editor's Note: The KPEL News staff reads all letters to the editor and occasionally publishes them on the digital platform kpel965.com. We have forwarded this letter to the offices of Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux and Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard and asked for comment. If you would like to send a letter to the editor, email news@kpel965.com with "letter to the editor" in the subject line.