Could Kip Judice be the answer to Duson’s police chief troubles?

by Patrick Flanagan

After a tight yet unsuccessful bid for Lafayette City Marshal, the former longtime Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputy has put himself in the running for Duson’s next chief of police.

Kip Judice
Photo by Robin May

After a tight yet unsuccessful bid for Lafayette City Marshal that ended in a lost runoff in December to Brian Pope, former longtime Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s deputy Kip Judice has put himself in the running for an appointment as Duson’s next chief of police.

Judice’s application, reported Monday by KLFY TV10, puts an end to some speculation that he would use the name recognition he gained during the high-profile marshal's race as a campaign jumpstart for the job of his former boss, Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom following Neustrom's announcement in January that he wouldn't seek a fifth term.

With his application submitted, Judice — who, if hired, will likely take a considerable pay cut from what he was making before retiring as a captain with the sheriff's office to run for last year's marshal's race — is now among five candidates up for consideration by Duson Mayor Johnny Thibodeaux to fill a vacant post that’s been marred by controversy in recent years. During the race for Lafayette City Marshal, Judice quickly established himself as the candidate with big ideas, which could be seen as a possible answer for a position that’s proven a controversial headache for town officials.

According to a report by The Advocate in July, over the last 15 years, the town of about 1,700 residents has seen three police chiefs ousted over suspicions of malfeasance. The troubles, according to the report, started in 2000 with the conviction of longtime Chief Tom Deville on federal drug charges. That conviction was the result of Deville’s tenure as chief in the 1990s, and an accusation that for years he purposefully ignored the operations of a locally-based drug ring.

The troubles with Deville were followed in 2009 with the arrest of then-Chief Joseph Johnfore on charges of malfeasance and theft of over $5,000 in money collected from traffic ticket fines. Amid the scandal, Johnfore — who was eventually let off the hook after a grand jury refused to hand down an indictment in the case — resigned the chief’s post over what he called a lack of trust from town officials. The town’s law enforcement troubles would emerge once again with Johnfore’s replacement, Frank Andrew, who was fired from the chief’s post last year over allegations that he was gambling during work hours.

Frank Andrews was terminated as Duson's chief in July after he became the town's third chief to face allegations of malfeasance.

Over the years, the issues surrounding the town’s chiefs of police have prompted legislation — passed amid Johnfore’s downfall in 2009 — to make the town’s chief an appointed instead of elected position. Yet, with last year’s termination of Andrews — the first chief appointed following the change in legislation — town officials, tired of the never-ending controversy surrounding the post, began floating ideas of either returning it to an elected post or doing away with the town’s PD altogether, calling in the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office to handle the job instead.

“The record of Duson, it has been terrible,” Mayor Thibodeaux quipped to The Advocate following Andrews' ouster in July.

Despite floating alternative ideas for fixing Duson’s law enforcement situation, town officials, in the close to eight months since the most recent firing, have instead set their sights on finding another new chief, one that will hopefully set the small department on a different course from their predecessors.

Five candidates are up for the job, including Kip Judice, Arnold Ceasar, Norley Stelly, Eddie Guidry and acting Chief Joe Caillet.

The Duson mayor is expected to make his decision next week.