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Standing-room-only crowd turns out for hearing on next Chief

Posted: Monday, March 11, 2019 | Views: 4433

Standing-room-only crowd turns out for hearing on next Chief
HAMMOND---The Hammond City Council heard from more than a dozen speakers Monday night, each offering input leading up to Tuesday’s Council vote on Mayor Pete Panepinto’s nominee for the next Hammond Police Chief.

In a nearly hour long meeting designed to assess the pulse of the public with Panepinto’s recommendation of veteran HPD Sgt. Edwin Bergeron as the next Chief, the standing-room-only crowd produced only 14 speakers. Eight of the 14 endorsed Bergeron; two opposed the nomination, and two other speakers cautioned the Council against taking action just yet in the wake of a civil lawsuit filed against the city for wrongful termination of the last police chief.

After several weeks of social media speculation and much talk that the hearing would be nothing less than a “circus," Council President Carlee White Gonzales ran a tight ship and kept speakers on task and timed to a limit of two minutes of comments apiece. When challenged by former Councilman Lemar Marshall and asked if the public could ask Bergeron questions after the public input portion of the meeting had closed, Gonzales held true to the advertised format of the meeting and refused to allow the meeting to disintegrate into a debate.

"Our meeting was very well attended tonight and we heard a broad range of issues and opinions on the mayor’s appointee. Attendees were respectful of our process and and rules. I intend for these types of public input sessions to be called for all appointments that require council approval in the future,” Gonzales said.

Those addressing the council Monday night came from a wide area, not limited to just inside the Hammond city boundaries. Perhaps the most noteworthy of those addressing the public platform were five self-identified Hammond Police officers, including two veteran officers who appeared before the council in uniform to support Bergeron’s appointment. Veteran HPD Brian McCormick said that he’s been with the department for 23 years and that it is going to take dedication and someone willing to make personal sacrifices to keep HPD moving forward. “I can’t think of a good reason not to let (Bergeron) (be chief),” McCormick said.

17-year veteran Daniel Boudreaux told the council that Bergeron “has never steered me wrong.” Boudreaux took over the local police union when Bergeron’s term as president was over, and he said, “Everybody respects (Edwin).”

“I’ll gladly work for him,” Boudreaux said, adding that Bergeron “doesn’t get stuck in ‘my way or no way’, and that’s very rare here.”

“I’d be happy to serve under him as my chief,” Boudreaux said.

Fellow officers Xavier Ramirez, Trenell Williams, and Juan Duran spoke to Bergeron’s leadership and his role as a mentor to younger officers. Williams, a Baton Rouge transplant, said Bergeron immediately started mentoring him, asking him about his “purpose” and encouraging him to work hard, get out in the community and “work for something.” Williams said Bergeron will be a “great fit” for chief, because “he knows us,” referring to the relationship Bergeron has with his fellow law enforcement officers.

Duran said Bergeron “helps everyone as much as he can,” a sentiment that Councilman Devon Wells echoed in his closing remarks at the end of the hearing. Wells said Bergeron had been called to address an issue involving one of Wells’ family members and that in the course of the work, Bergeron did what he could to help the young person. Wells said that same young man wanted to come back Monday night to testify to all Bergeron had done for him, but he could not because he was away at college. Wells publicly attributed that achievement in part to the way that Bergeron worked with the young man to help him.

The council will vote on Bergeron’s nomination Tuesday night. The item will be addressed as a resolution under new business and as such requires just a three-vote majority to pass before the five-member council. That meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Hammond City Council Chambers and is open to the public.

PHOTOS:
Councilman Kip Andrews and Council President Carlee White Gonzales review procedures for the Monday night public hearing on the new Hammond Police Chief.

Police Chief nominee Edwin Bergeron is a 20-year veteran of the Hammond Police Department.

Mayor Pete Panepinto recommended Bergeron and endorsed his nominee before a standing-room-only crowd Monday night.

HPD veteran Brian McCormick offers support for Bergeron as Hammond's next Police Chief.
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