The Louisiana State Capitol (Wesley Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
A panel of Louisiana lawmakers met Monday and narrowed the list of applicants for the new Capitol police chief’s job to four finalists, paring down a list of 10 applicants. Those who made the cut include the nephew of a former legislative leader and a state trooper disciplined then cleared for unauthorized work travel.
Members of the Capitol Security Council will meet Thursday after to interview the remaining four applicants: Terry Alario Jr., a special agent/operations officer with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office; Lt. Rodney Hyatt, who works in evidence control for State Police; Frederick Thomas, a district commander for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office; and Stephen Louis, an assistant sergeant-at-arms for the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Senate President Page Cortez, who heads the Capitol Security Council, said at the onset of Monday’s meeting that one of the 11 applicants originally up for consideration – JD Leach, a retired special operations commander for the Baton Rouge Police Department – had withdrawn his name.
Alario is the nephew of former Senate president and House speaker John Alario Jr. He has worked for the attorney general since 2004, spanning three different office holders. His current role involves security at the AG’s main office in Baton Rouge and its satellite locations around the state. Alario is also on the advisory board for the National Attorney Generals Training & Research Institute.
Hyatt was one of the four state troopers initially demoted for a 2016 side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon while en route to a law enforcement conference in San Diego. The controversy prompted the resignation of Col. Mike Edmonson, then State Police superintendent.
After an internal investigation, Hyatt was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant. The state ethics board cleared Hyatt of wrongdoing, and he successfully appealed his demotion to the Louisiana State Police Commission. Hyatt said Edmonson had full knowledge of the side trip and blamed him and the other troopers once the information became public.
In addition to his role with sheriff’s office, Thomas is the former president of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Louis has worked in the House of Representatives since 2015.
The new police department the new chief hire will form will consist of some two dozen officers. Its jurisdiction covers the grounds of the State Capitol, including the Pentagon Apartments where lawmakers have housing. The Legislature has budgeted $2 million for the agency, including $135,000 in salary and benefits for its chief.
The Illuminator requested copies of the applications for the police chief’s position from Senate Secretary Yolanda Dixon, custodian of public records for the chamber. She denied the request, citing an exception for “security and confidential/privileged” reasons under Louisiana’s public records law. Dixon did provide the applicants’ names and their current positions.
A follow-up request for the references the applicants provided was also denied.
Before lawmakers on the council went into executive session to review the 10 applicants, most in attendance listed the names that stood out to them. Daniel Blackdeer, deputy police chief at the Wisconsin State Capitol, was mentioned as one of the stronger candidates by Cortez and Sens. Beth Mizell and Jay Luneau but didn’t advance for an interview.
Rep. Larry Selders said that Blackdeer did not make his list because he was from out of state. Instead, he touted Louis and Thomas.
Hyatt earned praise from five members of the council, and three lawmakers mentioned Alario by name.
Mizell told fellow lawmakers that the ultimate choice for Capitol police chief needs to be “squeaky clean” before they went into executive session.
T.J. Gaughf, director of training for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, was among the applicants who weren’t advanced. Gaughf was issued a summons in early October 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.
Other applicants who were eliminated Monday were Timothy Atkins with the Port of Lake Charles Harbor Police; Olajuwan Davis, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer; Byron Hatch, a Baton Rouge chief deputy constable; and Paul Lockett, a Baton Rouge deputy constable since 2020.
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