The Franklin Parish Police Jury voted last week to install a security camera in the shop at the parish public works barn but agreed to block Police Jury staff at the Franklin Parish Courthouse from accessing the camera's footage.
Some security cameras were previously installed at the public works barn, but a security camera inside the shop has not yet been activated because its installation would require digging up the barn's parking lot, according to parish staff.
“We just haven't had time to dig it up and redo it,” said Superintendent Wendell Thornton.
Thornton's office is part of the public works facility, while parish treasurer/secretary Sam Boyd, assistant parish treasurer/secretary Karah Lochbrunner, human resources and other parish staff work at the Police Jury's offices in the courthouse.
When the matter surfaced during the Police Jury's regular meeting Sept. 10, the Police Jury initially considered installing a security camera in the barn's shop while giving access to both Thornton as well as Police Jury staff at the courthouse.
Peters noted there are five security cameras in operation now, but the camera in the shop does not work because the fiber optic cable is not connected to it.
During the discussion, Lochbrunner noted that parish records showed security cameras were authorized for installation in January 2018. The previously installeed security cameras could already be viewed from the courthouse.
“My understanding is that they would be monitored from both locations,” Lochbrunner said.
Referring to the Police Jury's offices at the courthouse, Police Juror Gary Peters said, “Why would they need to be monitored here?”
Lochbrunner indicated the decision belonged to police jurors.
Police Juror Leodis Norman echoed Peters' concern.
“We shouldn't be monitoring them here,” Norman said.
After the meeting, Norman defended the decision to keep Police Jury staff from monitoring activity at the public works barn by arguing that the superintendent needed to hold that responsibility alone.
“He's working with the hands out there,” Norman said. “We pay him to do that.”
When asked about having additional accountability measures, Norman said, “It's good to have accountability. If we need to hold someone accountable, we can because the videos will be recorded, and we can view the videos after they have been recorded.”
Boyd, the parish treasurer/secretary, did not answer The Franklin Sun's inquiries about whether security camera footage was recorded onto a permanent storage device before the newspaper went to press Tuesday.
After the meeting, Peters as well as Police Jury President Ricky Campbell and Police Juror James Harris also questioned the need for parish staff at the courthouse to monitor activity at the public works barn.
“What's the point of it?” Campbell said.
“I don't see the point of it,” Peters added.
“I don't either, Harris said.
Meanwhile, the Police Jury declined to take action on a request from local law enforcement that the Police Jury establish an ordinance prohibiting block parties during the COVID-19 crisis.
Lochbrunner, the assistant treasurer/secretary, said some officers sought the ordinance forbidding block parties and other mass gatherings. The officers appeared to be concerned about COVID-19, according to Lochbrunner.
Norman asked whether the Police Jury had received any complaints about block parties.
“I don't know,” Lochbrunner said.
Police Juror Keiona Wesby questioned whether introducing such an ordinance was needed in light of Gov. John Bel Edwards' recent decision to enter Phase Three. Phase Three is the third phase under President Trump's Opening Up America Again plan in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Phase Three usually includes increased capacity at public events.
Lochbrunner noted the officers appeared to want to prohibit private property owners from inviting masses of people for social gatherings.
“If it's private, we should let that be,” Norman said.
Wesby echoed agreement with Norman's remarks.
“I'm not going to have a block party, but it's my business,” said Harris, with a laugh.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Kramer, who serves as the Police Jury's legal counsel, suggested the officers may have requested the ordinance because the permitting process requires so many officers to provide off-duty security services depending on how many people attend the gathering.
“I think that's what this is aimed at,” Kramer said.