‘Cajun John Wayne’ named new LPD top cop

Higgins, left, and Robideaux at a recent reception honoring Lafayette pioneers.
Photo by Robin May

Mayor-President Joel Robideaux on Friday announced plans to appoint Clay Higgins as the next chief of the Lafayette Police Department. Higgins, the bombastic former captain with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office who starred in CrimeStopper segments on KATC that went viral earlier this year, resigned from the sheriff’s office in Opelousas at the end of February. He is scheduled to be sworn in as chief of Lafayette Police on June 1.

“Clay brings a sensible, plain-speaking approach to law enforcement,” Robideaux says in a press release announcing the hire. “As a lawman, he has proven over a 30-year career that shooting straight and policing hard matter — and they have proven results. I’m proud today to make this announcement.”

“I’m biblical in my approach,” Higgins says in the same release. “I believe justice should be swift but fair, and that’s what I’ll bring to this job — an Old Testament cleansing of our contaminated streets with godly determination and superior firepower.”

Higgins announced his resignation from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 28. The departure came following an unspecified disagreement with his boss, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz; neither Guidroz nor Higgins detailed what led to the captain’s departure, although there was widespread speculation that the CrimeStoppers segments were getting “over the top,” as one source put it, and that Guidroz was uncomfortable with Higgins’ representation of the agency. The CrimeStoppers videos, which aired on KATC, were viral sensations that were shared millions of times on social media and made Higgins a darling of conservative media. There was even talk of a reality-TV series for the outspoken lawman.

News of Higgins’ appointment came as a surprise to many in the community who anticipated that Robideaux would name Capt. Reginald Thomas, currently serving as interim chief, to the top post. Last month Robideaux asked the Civil Service Board to change the qualifications required to apply for the chief position, removing a requirement that Lafayette’s top police officer have a four-year college degree, in an apparent move to grease the skids for Thomas.

“Quite surprised,” says District 3 Councilman Pat Lewis, a vocal public supporter of Thomas, a 26-year veteran of the LPD who is black. “It has been my understanding all along that Mr. Robideaux wanted a black police chief. I didn’t see this coming.”

“I think Clay Higgins is exactly what the Lafayette Police Department needs,” District 6 Councilman Bruce Conque, the council’s most vocally tough-on-crime member, tells The IND. “[Former Chief] Jim Craft was like applesauce; Higgins is hard cider.”

Still, not everyone on the council is sitting comfortable with Robideaux’s surprising decision to peg Higgins as top cop. “I’m troubled by this hire and don’t feel like the mayor-president sought adequate counsel on this matter,” Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux of District 4, Lafayette’s most populous black-majority district, tells this newspaper. “I find this concerning just as I found those CrimeStoppers videos of concern. I believe there was a lot of coded language that should have made, and did make, African Americans uncomfortable.”

Robideaux, however, brushes aside those concerns in the press release announcing the appointment: “Clay Higgins will be a chief for all the people — that I can promise.”

[Editor's Note: For anyone reading this after April 1, 2016, this is indeed an April Fools joke.]