Dec. 4, 2015 11:58 AM

Flanked by family, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft announces his retirement Friday morning.
Photos by Wynce Nolley
His voice wavering at times as he struggled with his emotions, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft announced his retirement from the department at a press conference Friday morning. His final day will be Jan. 31, 2016 — the 39th anniversary of his hire with the LPD.

“I’m kind of anal-retentive in that way and I want to go out on the same day I came in,” he said of his chosen retirement date.

Craft served in various positions with the department, beginning as a patrolman and working his way up through the ranks to captain and, for the last decade, chief.

Craft stressed in his statement to media that the decision wasn’t made in haste: “I notified the LCG administration in April of 2015 that Jan. 31, 2016 would be my date. Likewise, President-elect Robideaux was informed some weeks back during our first meeting. I have assured him that I will remain available to his administration as they transition into the new government.”

F
lanked by his wife, Joan Dupré Craft, and his children and grandson, the mustached top cop pointed to several prominent cases as high points during his nearly four-decade career with the department — among them the arrest and conviction of Dr. Richard Schmidt, who’s now serving a 50-year sentence for attempted murder following his 1998 conviction for injecting his former lover with the HIV virus. The case was a first in the country to use viral DNA evidence at the trial and became the basis for an episode of the popular crime procedural program Forensic Files.

When he was Capt. Craft he was the lead investigator in another famous case that made national headlines: the so-called “Southside Rapist” investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of Lafayette sheriff’s Deputy Randy Comeaux, who is serving six life sentences following his conviction in 1999.

Craft also pointed to the 2012 probe into the murder of UL student Mickey Shunick that led to the confession, conviction and life sentence for Brandon Lavergne as a high point of his career.

The chief also acknowledged that his department has work to do in strengthening its relationship with the black community.

“I have said many times in my messages to the troops that it has been an honor and privilege to lead such an exceptional group of men and women. Much has been accomplished but much remains to be done. This department, this government and this city will always have my undying loyalty,” Craft added in a prepared statement.

Craft said he will assist City-Parish President-elect Joel Robideaux in the transition to selecting a new chief of police. He also hinted that he will do some law-enforcement consulting around the country following his retirement, adding that the “first thing I’m going to do is learn how to hold a golf club correctly.”