By Sheriff Greg Champagne
I have been honored to serve as the chief law enforcement officer of St. Charles Parish for the past eleven years. On October 20th, I will again be candidate for Sheriff in one of the state’s fastest growing parishes. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office has been in existence for over 150 years. It has been during my tenure that some of our most important milestones have occurred. As a result, your sheriff’s office has become one of the most progressive and respected in the State of Louisiana.
The crime rate in St. Charles Parish has fallen 19 percent in the last ten years despite an increase in population of nearly 20 percent.
More and more people have a yearning to live in St. Charles and are moving to our parish in droves. Our low crime rate, quality of life, and excellent public education system are no longer a secret. The low crime rate we now experience is no accident. It is the product of recruiting good people, training them in the latest law enforcement techniques, and outstanding cooperation with private citizens, neighborhood groups and other regional and state law enforcement agencies.
On a personal level, I am a resident of Luling where I live with my wife, Alice of 26 years and our two children, Gregory Jr. and Rochelle. After graduating from Hahnville High School, I received a B.A. in Government from Nicholls State University and was selected as one of ten “Hall of Fame” graduates in 1979. Thereafter, I obtained a law degree from Louisiana State University and returned to St. Charles to practice law in my own community. I am a longtime member of the Rotary Club of St. Charles as well as K.C. Council 2409. My family and I are members of Holy Family Church in Luling.
Twenty-five years ago I began a career entirely dedicated to law enforcement and serving the people of St. Charles Parish. I served as an Assistant District Attorney for 14 years and developed a reputation as a tough but fair prosecutor with a 94% felony jury conviction rate including 8 murder convictions. I was elected Sheriff in 1996 achieving a first primary victory in a field of four highly qualified candidates. I was re-elected in 1999 without opposition and again in 2003 with an overwhelming 81% of the vote.
In 2003, the Louisiana Crime Victim’s Coalition honored me as Louisiana Sheriff of the Year. Since then, I was elected by my peers – the other 65 Sheriffs of Louisiana to serve as President of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association beginning in July of 2007. I have also been elected to, and currently serve as one of 30 board members of the prestigious National Sheriff’s Association.
In 2004, my email alert system, based at www.sheriffgregchampagne.com became the first of its type in the entire country. I have also recently added a text page alert system to keep citizens immediately notified of emergency events occurring in St. Charles Parish. Thousands of residents are registered to receive weekly email messages directly from me that keep them informed of important emerging law enforcement updates and alerts. The feedback I have received from this project has been very positive, and we continue to look for ways to expand communication to all the people of St. Charles.
Training and education of deputies has always been a priority for my office. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office holds one of only about 25 police training academies in Louisiana. This allows us to train our own officers and hold extensive in-service annual training for all of our employees. A college tuition reimbursement benefit has allowed many of our deputies to earn a college degree in criminal justice while serving the people of St. Charles.
Compensating the best and brightest law enforcement officers in the state has always been a priority for our department. As such, I have worked hard to provide outstanding salaries and benefits for our law officers and have been able to increase these salaries substantially during the past few years. Starting pay for deputies has doubled since I took office from $18,000 per year to now over $36,000.00 thanks in no small part to the citizens of St. Charles who clearly support our efforts. Also, longevity pay has been established to reward those who have chosen law enforcement as their career. It is my goal to continue to increase salaries and benefits for our deputies in the future as available revenue permits.
Emergency preparation for events such as hurricanes and terrorist threats has been taken to a new level since I became Sheriff. St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Deputies performed wonderfully after Hurricane Katrina under difficult conditions. Our advance planning provided a smooth evacuation and re-entry for our citizens. Residents can evacuate the area and know that their homes and property are well protected during these events. Our extensive support to local industry allowed St. Charles Parish to recover from the effects of this storm and get on its feet quickly. The local economy is booming as a result.
A Strategic Response Team (SRT) is now fully trained and operational. This group of elite deputies is ready to respond to any type of emergency threat from a terrorist event to an act of school violence. The training techniques of our SRT are now being copied by other agencies in the State.
An enhanced Special Investigations Division (Narcotics Unit) has resulted in a record number of drug dealers and users being taken off of the streets of St. Charles Parish. This division was recently honored collectively as our 2006 Deputies of the Year for their successes.
Numerous crime prevention programs have also been some of the signature accomplishments of the past few years.
A total package of school safety and violence prevention initiatives has drastically reduced the number of fights and violent actions in our schools. Our school resource officer program and zero tolerance projects have been emulated throughout the country. The supervisor of this program and I have been invited multiple times to attend and present seminars sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children around the United States. Our DARE program has now educated thousands of school children about the dangers of drugs, violence and other addictive problems. Presentations to school-aged young people are made weekly on topics such as safety, bike registration, fingerprinting, and general law enforcement issues. A total of 10 deputies are assigned full time to our schools. St. Charles Parish residents can feel assured that their children are safe when going to and from school.
We have also created and established an active senior citizen crime prevention program in St. Charles Parish. TRIAD, a national concept provides our seniors with two annual public events to promote numerous safety and health tips. The file of life, adopt-a-senior, operation call back and many others programs help our older residents live in safety and with peace of mind.
Our SALT Council, which meets monthly, also serves as a local community advisory panel to me and the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office allowing us to receive constant input as to the needs of the community.
One of the highlights of my administration has been the planning and construction of the desperately needed state of the art Nelson Coleman Correctional Center. This $17 million project was completed without increasing taxes of the people and relies upon mostly self-generated funds for operational costs. After the correctional center was opened and there was room for those who committed crimes in our parish, the crime rate fell even faster. Inmates are now required to pay the costs of their own health care and room and board. Inmates are also used extensively in community service work and public projects whenever possible. Education and work programs have reduced the recidivism rate of these inmates.
The above statement barely scratches the surface of the accomplishments of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office in the last few years under my administration with the able help of my talented team of law enforcement professionals. For more information, you can go to www.stcharlessheriff.org and www.sheriffgregchampagne.com.
I am eager to continue my service to the people of St. Charles and to fulfill my responsibility and the pledge I first made 12 years ago; to make our parish the safest and most attractive place in Louisiana to live, work, and raise a family.