Two applicants for Capitol police chief have made headlines

By: - October 27, 2022 6:00 am
Governor: Some lawmakers focused on ‘non-issues’

The Louisiana State Capitol (Wesley Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

State lawmakers will choose the first ever Capitol police chief in the coming weeks, and the law enforcement professionals who have put their names up for consideration include two who were involved in notable incidents related to their jobs.

T.J. Gaughf, director of training for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Rodney Hyatt, a state trooper since 1998, are among the 11 people who applied for the chief’s position, according to information provided by the Louisiana Senate.

Gaughf was issued a summons earlier this month for first-offense driving while intoxicated, according to WBRZ-TV. He was reportedly ticketed – but not arrested – after a state trooper logged his blood alcohol content at 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit for a DWI.

News reports indicate the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office suspended Gaughf and demoted him from captain to second lieutenant. A representative of the Ascension Parish Clerk of Court said Tuesday that Gaughf had yet to be arraigned on the DWI charge.

The sheriff’s public information officer has not responded to a message from the Illuminator.

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Hyatt was one of four state troopers demoted or disciplined for unauthorized travel in 2016 at the expense of taxpayers. The officers took a side trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas while driving to a police conference in San Diego. The scandal led to the resignation of Superintendent Mike Edmonson.     

After an internal State Police investigation, Hyatt was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant. A state ethics board review cleared Hyatt of wrongdoing. In the appeal of his demotion to the Louisiana State Police Commission, Hyatt said Edmonson had full knowledge of their side trip and made him and the other troopers scapegoats once the information was made public. The LSP Commission reinstated Hyatt and two other troopers to their original ranks

According to information from the state Senate, Hyatt has been the evidence control unit lieutenant for State Police since 2017.

The Illuminator could not reach the State Police public affairs division for comment.

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Former Capitol leader’s nephew applies

Another of the applicants for the Capitol police leadership role is Terry Alario Jr., nephew of former Senate president and House speaker John Alario Jr. 

Information the state Senate shared said that Alario has been a special agent/operations officer with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office since 2004, working under Charles Foti, Buddy Caldwell and currently Jeff Landry.

Alario’s current role includes being in charge of security at the AG’s main office building in Baton Rouge and its satellite locations around the state. He also serves on the advisory board for the National Attorney Generals Training & Research Institute.

Other applicants for the position include:

  • Timothy Atkins, a lieutenant with the Port of Lake Charles Harbor Police, where he has worked for the past 22 years;
  • Daniel Blackdeer, deputy police chief at the Wisconsin State Capitol, his employer since 1990;
  • Olajuwan Davis, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer since 2015;
  • Byron Hatch, chief deputy constable for the City of Baton Rouge, where he went to work in 2018;
  • JD Leach, retired special operations commander for the Baton Rouge Police Department;
  • Paul Lockett, a Baton Rouge deputy constable since 2020;
  • Stephen Louis, an assistant sergeant-at-arms for the Louisiana House of Representatives since 2015; and
  • Frederick Thomas, a district commander for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and former president of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Davis is the only applicant who has not been trained according to Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council standards – a certification that is a prerequisite for the Capitol police chief’s job.

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Year-round security sought

Heightened risk awareness led state lawmakers to establish a police force for the Capitol grounds. The site sees a number of protests and public gatherings throughout the year, usually peaking during legislative sessions.

Louisiana State Police stations troopers in the building during the legislative session and on the fourth floor where the governor’s office is located. Troopers are pulled from the legislature’s corridors once session is done, and the only security staff on hand are the sergeants-at-arms who maintain decorum in each chamber and committee rooms. 

Legislators noted communication gaps between the House and Senate staff with regards to security when  they budgeted $2 million for the new police force. That includes $135,000 in salary and benefits for its director. 

That amount puts the director’s compensation in the neighborhood of the $110,000 average salary for Louisiana police chiefs, according to figures shared at the Capitol Security Council meeting in August.

The council, comprising lawmakers from both chambers, intends to have a chief in place before next year’s legislative session starts in April. 

Senate President Page Cortez, who chairs the Capitol Security Council, did not respond to a request for comment on the applicants.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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