Could mounting controversy lead to the unseating of Iberia Parish's sheriff?

by Patrick Flanagan

It’s been a tough 12 months for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

It’s been a tough 12 months for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Sheriff Louis Ackal

In the last year, his office has come under repeated fire for its poor treatment of minorities.The questionable in-custody death of a handcuffed black man last April has spawned repeated protests by civil rights activists and an ongoing federal investigation. A recently surfaced video showing deputies from his jail and a police K-9 giving an old-fashioned beat-down/biting to an inmate prompted an investigative series by The Advocate and a subpoena by a federal grand jury. And to top it all off, Ackal is on the verge of another campaign for reelection.

This will be Ackal’s third run since coming into office in 2008 after a long career with Louisiana State Police. And with Ackal more vulnerable than ever before, the civil-rights activists who have long been a thorn in his side will again return to the city for another protest against the sheriff. And this time around, they’ll be calling for his job at a protest planned for Wednesday (today) at a church in New Iberia.

Among the activists involved in today’s protest are the Rev. Raymond Brown, president of National Action Now’s New Orleans chapter and a longtime critic of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office; and the Rev. Victor White Sr., father of Victor White III, the young man who was mysteriously killed from a gunshot wound to the chest while handcuffed in the back of an Iberia sheriff’s cruiser last year.

“We want him to step down,” Brown tells The Daily Advertiser. “You have a situation down there where things are just out of hand. We are sick and tired of police abuse in New Iberia. I think this [protest] will force Ackal to come forward and state his position on the jail system. Hopefully, Ackal will acknowledge his failed leadership and do the right thing for the people of New Iberia and Iberia Parish, and that’s step out of the way and allow new leadership to come in. The elections are coming up. If we have to force him out through the ballot, we’ll do that.”

Two contenders have already lined up to challenge the incumbent in the coming elections — including Roberta Boudreaux, the former warden of Iberia’s jail, and Iberia Parish’s quadrennial sheriff’s candidate Joe LeBlanc, who’s been running unsuccessfully for the job since 1995, most recently pulling in just shy of 20 percent of the vote during Ackal’s last campaign victory.

An unexpected and growing number of political signs for Ackal’s two competitors have already started showing up in front yards throughout the parish, but useating an incumbent sheriff in Louisiana is an almost unheard-of feat.

And despite all the recent controversies surrounding Ackal during his time in office, don’t be surprised when he reclaims his post for another four years come October.