Plenty of items on Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi’s radar in legislative session

Staff Report

Law enforcement officials throughout Louisiana will pay close attention to bills that highlight juvenile justice, among other issues during this year’s Regular Legislative Session that began Monday.

Sheriff Brett Stassi, who serves as president of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, said he hopes lawmakers will approve a measure that will provide modest pay hikes for first responders, but he will oppose a proposition that would end qualified immunity.

Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi

Funding for a facility to house pretrial juvenile offenders will pose one of the biggest challenges, he said.

“It’s high on my list,” he said. “We’re open to any ideas.”

Building from the ground up may be cost-prohibitive, but an existing facility no longer in use could be a possibility.

With the move of inmates from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel, that facility could be an option, Stassi said.

But the costs would not end with availability of a building

Staffing the facility is also an issue. The need for teachers, doctors and other staffers adds to the price tag for a facility, Stassi said.

“It’s one of the toughest things we’ve ever faced,” he said. “Remember that these are not the ones we convict – this is the pretrial holding for those who commit serious offenses.”

Meanwhile, Stassi said he and other law enforcement officials will oppose a bill that would limit or eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.  

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that renders police and other employees virtually immune from civil lawsuits when they violate certain rights or laws.

House Bill 702, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Edmond Jordan who represents East and West Baton Rouge Parish, would provide for exceptions to immunity and to provide for costs, expenses and attorney fees under fees under certain circumstances, and provide for malfeasance and P.O.S.T. certification revocation.

Stassi believes it’s a necessary tool for law enforcement.

“This bill would make a deputy, for example, doublethink what to do when he or she is trying to think through that, they may be the one who gets killed,” Stassi said. “We don’t want them to be second-guessing and worrying about losing their home and everything else they own just as they’re trying to keep the public safe.”

The $100 a month supplemental pay increase for eligible first responders would include law enforcement and firefighters, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during his State of the State Address.

“Here in Louisiana, we need to put to rest this talk about defunding the police,” he said. “We can never adequately compensate the men and women who put their lives on the line for public safety.”