By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPOT — Last week Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator visited with Erin McCarty and Robert J. Wright on our local 710 KEEL radio about Governor John Bel Edwards touted Criminal Justice Reform.

The bipartisan legislation revamping the way Louisiana deals with criminals and crime was passed in 2017 in an attempt to lower Louisiana’s notoriously high incarceration rate.  The reform bill was authored by six Republicans, two Democrats, and one Independent.  Those designations mean little though; in Louisiana all you have to do to get re-elected to the other side of the legislative chamber is change your political affiliation, if not your beliefs.

In a meeting with President Donald Trump in early August, Governor John Bel Edwards said, “In Louisiana, we’re proud of the work we’ve done. It’s been sentencing reform, prison reform, and a real focus on reentry and for the first time in 20 years, I can tell you Louisiana does not have the highest incarceration rate in the nation today.”

In 2017, U.S. News and World Report listed the top ten states with the highest incarceration rate in the nation and Louisiana was number one, and designated the prison capital of the world.

Everyone agrees there is a problem here but consensus begins to diverge when we begin to nail down what those problems are and how to solve them.  Senator John Kennedy, (R-LA) is one of those voices against the new reforms:  “Well, the governor and I just disagree,” said Kennedy. “He thinks our problem in Louisiana is we have too many prisoners. I think our problem is we have too many people committing crimes.”

Sheriff Prator is more specific.  In his visit on KEEL radio last week he enumerated several changes he believes are problematic.  One of his concerns is that the re-entry programs that are supposed to help the newly released acclimate into society are not yet in place.  “We’re designing the bus while we’re driving the bus,” he said, “and somebody is gonna get killed, and people are getting killed…”.

Sheriff Prator is referring to two prisoners who were arrested on drug charges that were released in November, who have now committed murder, and have been rearrested.  One of these was in Ouachita Parish and the other in Bossier Parish.

These re-entry programs are supposed to be funded in part by the savings gained from lowering the incarceration rate.  Sheriff Prator directs citizens to page 38 of the Practitioners Guide for the new reforms which explains that in the first year, 35% of the savings will go to the Office of Juvenile Justice for Strategic Investments and to the Department of corrections for the same purpose.  Nobody has said what those strategic investments are; Sheriff Prator did not know.

Still in the first year, 14% of the savings will go to Victims’ services (this number drops to 10% after the first year.) Twenty-one percent goes to “Grants: community-based programs” (drops to 15% after year 1) and 30% of the savings from early release goes to the General Fund to be spent at legislators’ discretion.

What concerns Sheriff Prator a great deal can be found on pages 6 and 7 of the Practitioner’s Guide which outlines new thresholds and penalties for non-violent crimes.  Apparently, we are not all in agreement on what “non-violent” means.  For example, under the new law, a person could barge into my home with a firearm and could be free the very next day.  This is now a probationary offense.  Specifically, the former penalty for this was mandatory five to thirty years.  Now it is 1-30 years and the one year is not mandatory, according to Sheriff Prator.

Another example: no longer considered a violent crime is “mingling harmful substances”; in other words, if someone drops a date rape drug in your drink, this is a non-violent offense.  So is extortion and a drive-by shooting if you happen to miss hitting a person.  See page 7 of the Practitioners Guide for these.

Here is the chart found on page 7 of the Guide:

Penalties for crimes have been drastically altered as well, such as debt forgiveness.  One scenario described by Sheriff Prator would be that of a repeat offender for theft, for example.  If the judge orders that person to reimburse the victim, the most they have to pay back is the equivalent of one day’s wage per month, and if they do that for one year the balance of the debt is forgiven.

Additionally, third and fourth DWI offenses are now backed down to probation and may qualify for diversion, which means that it is not recidivism if it never happened.  At least on record.

Nobody, not even Sheriff Prator, thinks our prison system was without fault before these reforms.  Everyone agrees that change was needed.  But perhaps we have once again passed a bill without really knowing what is in it.  At the very least, we have passed a bill that releases prisoners without the safety net to keep them from reoffending.  Those programs simply do not exist yet and that is not a good situation for the citizens of Louisiana or the newly released.

Read the Practitioner’s Guide; it’s not a complicated document.  You can find it here.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – On July 8, 2016, Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Williams posted this to his Facebook account:


Today he is dead.

Yesterday, three Baton Rouge police officers were killed and three others injured – one is critical and on life support.  The officers were ambushed while responding to a call of a man with a rifle at a convenience store near police headquarters.  The shooter, Gavin Eugene Long of Kansas City, MO, is dead and it appears he was acting alone.  As is always the case, early reports are sketchy and there is a lot still to be learned here, but please don’t let me hear anyone say, “What were his motives?”  I think his motives were clear.

There may or may not be a connection, but less than 24 hours before the shooting on Sunday, the Black Panthers had a meeting in Baton Rouge for the purpose of forming a new chapter there.  The chapter was formed and names gathered for potential members.


Why was Gavin Long in Baton Rouge anyway?

And let me get this out of the way right now:  I put all of this at the foot of Obama for his divisive rhetoric from Day One.  Go all the way back to the Henry Gates incident and work your way up.  There are plenty of examples, not the least of which is his invitation to the hate group Black Lives Matter to come to the White House where he praised their outstanding work.

Cleveland police officer and Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis said it best:

“The president of the United States validated a false narrative and the nonsense that Black Lives Matter and the media are pressing out there to the public — validated with his very divisive statements. And now we see an escalation. This has got to end. We need some leadership in this country to come forward and put an end to this. I don’t care if it’s clergy, I don’t care who it is, but somebody has got to step up and put an end to this because it’s the false narrative and very influential people that are politicizing the false narrative. Absolutely insane that we have a president of the United States and a governor of Minnesota making the statements that they made less than one day after those police involved shootings. And those police involved shootings, make no mistake, are what absolutely has triggered this rash of senseless murders of law enforcement officers across this country. It is reprehensible. And the President of the United States has blood on his hands and it will not be able to come washed off.”

I agree with him.

However, none of that brings back the officers in Dallas or in Baton Rouge who have been killed this month.

The ripple effect of this is crushing.  Montrell Williams had been an officer in Baton Rouge for ten years; he had a wife, a new baby, a family.  They are devastated.

Officer Matthew Gerald served multiple Army tours in Iraq and had been with the department since October.  His family is devastated.

Brad Garafola’s wife found out her husband was killed when she was stopped by police cars on her way to meet him at a convenience store.  He leaves four children.

Personally, I’m at a loss right now; I’m angry, frustrated, and depressed.  I wish we had a national leader who could bring peace rather than division.  I wish we had a man of character to lead us rather than a community agitator.  This was not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.  Not at all.  This is not what we want to teach our children and this is not the mess we want to leave to them.

It has got to stop.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I’ve shown tremendous restraint over the past week on social media and my own blog in not writing about the protests and the inflamed rhetoric out there following the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge and the following ambush against law enforcement in Dallas.  In fact, the only thing I posted on Facebook about it was that people need to stop sharing the media’s attempts to fan the flames and need to stop making it worse by posting hate filled memes and divisive commentary.

That won’t change here.

I will say this.  I am broken-hearted by all of it.  I live in Louisiana and I live three hours from Dallas.  This is close to home.

I have watched protests online via The Advocate and other Baton Rouge and NOLA news outlets.  The protests are tragic enough but the commentary by people watching is worse.  I’m as far from a Kumbaya-singing-hand-holding-liberal as a person can get, but we are all human beings!  Stop acting like this!  There are good and bad eggs in every single racial group and to stereotype any one group is just wrong.  Stop it.

Now, what I find curious this morning is this report from WAFB out of Baton Rouge about the arrests yesterday during protests:

According to the EBR Parish Prison booking sheet, all but seven of those arrested were from outside of the Baton Rouge area. An additional four are from cities directly neighboring Baton Rouge. The majority are from New Orleans. The rest are from Minnesota, North Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, New York, Washington D.C. and other cities from around Louisiana.

About a dozen of those on the posted list are out of the area.  Are they here for legitimate reasons and just caught up in the moment?  Maybe.  Are they bussed in by people with nefarious reasons?  Maybe.  If it’s the latter, shame on you.  And shame on those who sent you here.

From the protests I’ve watched, the Baton Rouge police have displayed extreme professionalism and restraint.  The police have had the main goal of keeping the roadways open and keeping these people from getting run over or obstructing traffic.  In return they’ve been hit with apples, eggs, water bottles, and rocks.

I watched a Periscope feed last night of a young woman who was among the protestors and inciting them to “get in the road!  Get in the road!  That’s why we’re here!”  That’s not a protest for Alton Sterling.  That’s not protest against perceived injustices by law enforcement.  That’s inciting a riot if you ask me.  She did indeed go into the road and got a few to go with her, but quickly ran back into the crowd when the police moved back into position across the street from them.

It’s a sad thing to watch for Louisiana.  It depresses me.  This is not who we are.

It’s my true wish that outside agitators would leave us alone and let us work this out together.  We don’t need the professional race baiters or the BLM agitators down here.

Go out today and to something nice for someone.  Smile at the person you pass on the sidewalk, thank an officer for what he does, pay it forward somewhere.  Wherever you live – let’s not let those who want to divide us succeed.  They are powerful but we are stronger.

Be kind.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

SHREVEPORT – The war against law enforcement continues; Breitbart reports that graffiti calling for violence against police officers is spreading across Texas and it’s clear that this is a problem that can’t be ignored.  Perhaps there is simply more media attention now on a problem that has always been there, but perhaps this problem is truly epidemic.

Yesterday, a man walked up to two officers stopped at a traffic light in Las Vegas and started shooting, hitting one of the officers in the hand. This is the second cop shooting in Vegas in three days.   A few days ago an officer on a prowler call was shot in the leg.

Here in Louisiana, where we are still mourning the killing of Officer Thomas LeValley, Trooper Steven Vincent, and Officer Henry Nelson, we almost added another name to our list yesterday.  In Shreveport, a man fired at officers, then led them on a high-speed chase through two parishes before crashing his car, drawing on officers once again, and losing his own life as a result.

Is this really happening more often, or are we just more aware of the assault on officers now?  I’m not sure, and the FBI annual report for this sort of this hasn’t been updated since 2013.

But it does seem that tensions are too high, that rabble-rousers and paid protestors are fully engaged, and that our law enforcement officers are at a higher risk than ever before. When Houston Deputy Darren Goforth is executed from behind while pumping gas simply because he was wearing a uniform, we have a problem.

Peter Roff writing at US News & World Report is correct:

Most of all, however, the president needs to step up and give the nation one of his famous lectures on tolerance and understanding. If the people who have actually declared war on the thin blue will listen to anyone they will listen to him. He knows this, and his failure to exercise the responsibility it places on him makes him at fault, at least partially, for whatever happens next.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Obama has no qualms in calling out the police when he thinks they are wrong; he should now call for tolerance and compassion.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It’s been a rough month in Louisiana. We have lost three law enforcement officers in as many weeks, and just next door in Texas, we lost another one this weekend. All of this on top of the tragic killing of two news reporters on live television last week…enough already!

All lives matter.

The group #blacklivesmatter is exacerbating the problem with their hate speech.  I’m not going to perpetuate it by repeating their garbage, but this group should be called out and cited for hate speech.  Nobody should give them any attention or publicity at all.  Their mission is pure evil.

In the wake of all this, I find myself longing for a leader who can instill calm, common sense, and peace among us.  I had a conversation with a friend this week who is on the opposite end of the political spectrum than I am, but he is reasonable and intelligent.  We agree to disagree on politics. After the murder of the journalists last week, we discussed gun control.  He said, “Perhaps I am on the side that there are too many guns out there and maybe you believe there are not enough.”

Well, no, that’s not what I believe. I’m not sure what the answer is to end all of this anarchy, but I don’t think gun control is the answer; that didn’t work for drugs or for alcohol, and those weren’t protected by the Second Amendment.

In the end, my friend and I did agree that the answer must lie somewhere in the fact that there is no longer respect for human life. We must somehow figure out a way to once again instill a respect for all life: white lives, black lives, unborn lives, lives of those of different religions, income brackets, or neighborhoods.

We must quit hating each other for perceived injustices and find a way to work out our problems without simply killing each other. In the case of the Texas deputy that was killed this weekend, no known motive has been offered except that the man was wearing a uniform.  He was simply filling his patrol car with gasoline when he was approached from behind and shot.

Our president, who has in the past not felt any qualms about speaking out on local law enforcement issues, has been silent on the rash of law enforcement murders and on the growing racial tension in our country. When he has commented, it has only served the purpose of exacerbating the problem. We need a leader to instill calm – to insist that all lives matter.

It’s got to stop.


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By Pat Austin


SHREVEPORT — Remember when “Swatting” was all the rage?  I think I know now how those victims felt.  I wasn’t a victim of Swatting last night, but I was indeed the victim of an over-zealous cop and his team who swarmed my house and came through the door with guns drawn.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I appreciate more than most people the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis.  It’s a dangerous job and most people wouldn’t do it.

Scene:  Saturday night, about 8:30.  My husband and I are sitting in our living room with the World Series on television.  Kansas City was leading the Giants 4 – 1.  My husband can’t stand listening to Joe Buck so the sound was turned way down.  He was working on his computer and I was reading a book on my iPad, and all three dogs were sleeping around us.

We have relatively new neighbors in the house directly behind us and these people have small children.  Lately the weather has been cool, turning to fall, and the evenings pleasant so the children are often playing out in the backyard, squealing and screaming as kids will do.  Yesterday their father was out there with them doing some home repair because I heard saws going and some hammering.   The kids don’t bother me; I’m glad kids play outside and are not stuck in front of video games.

So as we are watching the game, we can hear the kids playing and screaming; hubby asked me if I heard that because cause he wasn’t sure what he was hearing; it could have been on the TV, which as I said, was turned way down.  I confirmed that I heard the kids screaming and we went on about our business.

About 15 minutes later, about 8:45, Steve looks up from his computer and says, “Hey, there are police outside, I mean RIGHT outside.”  He could see the lights flashing through the blinds.  He got up and peeked out the blinds and saw patrol cars, and he saw officers with flashlights running down the driveway that cuts between my house and the neighbor’s house: it’s a wide double driveway that we share.

I stood up from the couch to look and as I crossed my living room I saw officers with flashlights running between my house and the neighbor’s house on the other side.  One was shouting “It’s back here, it’s back here!”

I said, “Steve, they’re over here now,” and pointed to the window.  About that time there is a fierce pounding on my front door and lights pointed at my house.  “Open up!  Open up right now!”  Pounding, pounding on the door.

Steve tells me to grab the dog (the Lab who is very protective, but not barking) opened the front door and starts to ask what in the world is going on when this cop with his gun drawn and aimed at Steve’s chest starts screaming “Get back!  Get back!  Who is screaming in this house?  Who is screaming!”  The cop props one foot on the threshold-step and continues screaming at us.

Steve raises his hands in an open gesture, the way you do when a cop is aiming a gun at you, and said, “What are you talking about?  Nobody is screaming in here!”

The cop, with the gun still aimed at Steve, looks at me and yells:  “Who else is in this house, who is doing that screaming?!”

I said, “Nobody is screaming in here!  It’s those children behind us!  We have kids living behind us and they play in their backyard!”  And Steve is saying “We’re just sitting here watching the baseball game!”  And the dog is standing there, who I’ve never managed to grab because this happened so fast, but he isn’t barking or charging at the cop, thank goodness.

Steve tells him, “I’m a police officer, I’m a retired Bossier City police officer; we are just sitting here watching baseball!”

At that point the cop turns his gun so he’s no longer aiming it at Steve but still has it in a firing grip, he turns to the officers standing behind him and in the driveway, and says “It’s the house behind, on the other street!”  and takes off running.

Steve hollers after him, “What’s your name!” and the officer gives it to him.

We closed the door in stunned silence.

We stared at each other, in silence, and then the fear and adrenaline hit me.  I started shaking and trembling and could not stop.  I sat back down on the couch, got back up, Steve is dumbfounded and then furious.  He gets on his cell phone and calls to speak to a supervisor and I walked outside on the back deck to see if I could hear anything.

I saw flashing police lights and the neighbor’s back flood light was still on.  I heard a stereo playing, maybe from their house, maybe another house.

I went back inside and Steve was still on the phone demanding to speak to a supervisor.  He finally got a lieutenant to come to the house to talk to us; he came within about thirty minutes and he had Mr. Over-Zealous Cop with him.  We had the door open, watching through the storm door for the lieutenant to show up and we saw Mr. Over-Zealous walking the supervisor through the run down the driveway and down the other side of the house, explaining what they did.  Then Mr. Over-Zealous walks back to the street, crosses his arms, and leans against his patrol car watching us as we speak to the supervisor.

In the end, the whole thing was terrifying.  I know it could have been much worse; I kept thinking what if my dog had jumped at the cop?  He would have shot him.  What if the cop thought Steve was making a threatening move?  Would he have shot him?  He was definitely drawn down on him.  What if my 22-year old son had come out of his room, walked around the corner into this scene – would he have shot him?  What if Steve and I had gone out and my son was home alone to face this craziness?

The what-ifs kept me up all night long and haunt me.

Like I said, I know it could have been worse, because no shots were fired in this case, and you certainly read about incidents that have gone wrong all the time.

I blame all this on the over-militarization of the police force.  Officers dress like SWAT teams now in all black or in riot gear with cargo pockets all over them.  What happened to first assessing the scene before you draw down on a civilian?  What happened to knocking on the door and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a noise complaint and just need to be sure everything is OK in here.”

And if he really thought someone was in mortal danger, why just take our word for it before running off to terrorize someone else?  When they were running between the houses, we had open windows (actually OPEN windows, as well as open blinds and curtains) and any officer could have looked inside or listened to see what was going on before drawing down on us.

I know police work is dangerous and I know that domestic calls are often the most dangerous.  I appreciate the difficulty of their job.  But with any job, your first responsibility is to do no harm, to avoid making any situation worse, and to act responsibly.

This could have gone very bad very quickly last night.

Tonight, I’m traumatized and a little unsteady but grateful that nothing worse happened.  But I remain convinced that the world is out of whack, the police are pushed and stressed beyond measure, and nobody trusts anybody anymore.


Author in New Mexico
Author in New Mexico

By John Ruberry

Last week, while few people outside of the west noticed, President Obama declared nearly 780 square miles in southern New Mexico America’s newest national monument, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, his largest designation yet. Two months ago the president, who infamously boasted early in his term, “We can’t wait for Congress to do its job, so where they won’t act, I will,” added 1,660 acres to the California Coastal National Monument.

So far Obama has declared eleven national monuments.  But another shoe, or actually I should say more shoes are about to drop:  “And I am not finished,” the president said at the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks announcement.

In another brazen move that still angers Utahns, shortly before his reelection, Bill Clinton set aside nearly 3,000 square miles of southern Utah to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I’ve been there. It’s pretty. But it doesn’t measure up to the grandeur of Grand Canyon or Yosemite. When we were driving through Grand Staircase-Escalante in 2010, Mrs. Marathon Pundit remarked to me, “You know, the land on this side of the monument isn’t any better or worse than what’s inside it.”

As that monument and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are located in sparsely populated areas of our nation, it’s likely that you are reading this post many miles away from both places. So, you may ask, “What does this have to do with me?”  Grand Staircase-Escalante and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks are closed off to drilling and fracking.Grand Staircase sign

Regular gasoline is selling for just under $4-per-gasoline where I live.

As for the newest monument, national security could be threatened.

From the Wall Street Journal [paid registration required]:

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), though, faulted the president’s “unilateral action,” saying the latest national monument designation would undermine security by limiting law enforcement access to high crime areas near the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch—and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our Southern border,” Mr. Boehner said. “At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders.”

The Obama administration should have included protections to ensure the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies have adequate access the southwest border, Mr. Boehner said. Such legislation was introduced in Congress but never passed into law.

As you’d expect, local law enforcement officials are even more hostile to Obama’s declaration.

From the Las Cruces Sun-News:

Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison recalls the times his deputies and federal agents were shot at as they pursued suspected drug smugglers through the area that will now be known as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. He also talked about the dozens of stolen cars that have been used to ferry drugs along pathways that lead through the desert and past border patrol checkpoints.

“If we have no ability to patrol that area, crime is going to increase. It will be akin to the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. I wonder how many years it will be before we have to post signs that say ‘Enter at your own risk.’ That’s my concern,” Garrison said.

Remember, Obama says, “And I am not finished.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.