Ward 2/Marksville City Court wants off-duty MPD officers to serve warrants
Faced with a growing backlog of warrants, the Ward 2/Marksville City Court has reached out to a former ally to help its efforts to clear those outstanding cases.
A request to the City Council earlier this month asked that off-duty police officers be allowed to serve the court’s warrants. The council took the request under consideration for further review.
If the warrant served yields a response, the officers would be paid on a per-warrant basis, Police Chief Elster Smith told the council at its Aug. 8 meeting.
Court Clerk/Administrator Monique Sprinkle said the court assesses an additional $50 if a warrant has to be issued for a defendant who did not show up for their court date. Fees collected are placed in the Warrant Fund to pay the costs of serving those warrants. That could include a payment to the officer who served the warrant and also to the Police Department to cover costs such as fuel and other administrative duties.
City Police officers had been used to serve these warrants in the past, but that practice stopped about four years ago, Smith and Sprinkle both noted.
In an attempt to clear a backlog of warrants, the City Marshal’s office hired part-time deputies in 2015 to do the job that off-duty officers had previously done.
The deputies’ duties were expanded to writing tickets as well as serving warrants.
On Nov. 5, 2015, a pursuit of a vehicle by deputy city marshals ended in the shooting incident that wounded Chris Few and killed his 6-year-old son, Jeremy Mardis.
The City Marshal’s Office no longer employs part-time deputies.
While council members seemed receptive to allowing city police to participate in the warrant program in their off-duty hours, Mayor John Lemoine voiced some opposition because “everyone benefits from this program but us.”
Lemoine noted that while the court benefits by clearing outstanding warrants and the officers benefit from the extra pay for their efforts, “the city will not benefit monetarily from this. It seems we’re always pitching and never catching.”
Lemoine’s comments refer to the ongoing controversy over the funding for court operations and the distribution of court fines between the Avoyelles Police Jury and the city.
The city unilaterally ended a “gentleman’s agreement” with the Police Jury a few years ago whereby the city paid almost all of the court’s operating costs in exchange for all of the court fines collected.
Lemoine and the council demanded the Police Jury pay half of the court’s operating costs -- as required in the state statute that created the court.
The Police Jury instructed the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute all cases possible as violations of state law rather than as municipal ordinances, thus ensuring most of the fines go to the Police Jury.
MAY HIRE PROSECUTOR
Later in that meeting, Smith reported the city received no fine money from Ward 2/City Court in July while the parish received $2,650.
“We need to look at getting a city prosecutor to prosecute our tickets and offenses,” Lemoine said.
The council has discussed the matter before, saying a city prosecutor would be able to prosecute Marksville cases and receive the fines levied by the court in those cases.
The District Attorney’s Office would prosecute the traffic and misdemeanor cases that occur in the unincorporated area of Ward 2.
Currently, the DA’s Office handles all prosecutions for cases inside and outside the municipal limits.