Steven Ward, Advocate (Baton Rouge), Nov. 15
LUTCHER — Accused of selling crack cocaine, Lutcher’s police chief remains behind bars after his August arrest by FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Yet Corey Pittman is still the police chief of Lutcher. And still receives a paycheck from the town — even though the town no longer has an operating police department.
Lutcher Mayor Troas A. Poche was forced to close the department during the first week of September because he has no one to run operations.
“I think this is all wrong, but there’s nothing I can do,” Poche said.
“Unless he (Pittman) resigns, is found guilty of a crime or his term expires, we can’t replace him,” Poche said. Pittman was elected chief, not appointed.
According to state law, unless Lutcher had an assistant police chief before Pittman’s arrest, Pittman cannot be replaced. That law — the Lawrason Act — also states that municipalities with a population of less than 10,000 can have the assistant police chief act as an administrator only “in the absence of the police chief.”
Lutcher, population 3,700, did not have an assistant police chief.
“We had the town attorney look at it and the state Attorney General’s Office,” Poche said. “There’s nothing we can do.”
The closure of the police department came about after Pittman, 29, was arrested Aug. 17 for selling crack cocaine to undercover federal drug agents and pocketing $5,200 in cash as a result, according to a Aug. 25 federal grand jury indictment.
Pittman was indicted on three counts of distributing 5 or more grams of cocaine base, or crack cocaine. If convicted, he could face five to 40 years in prison on each count and a fine of up to $2 million, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of New Orleans said in August.
Pittman reportedly sold the crack cocaine to an undercover DEA agent for $900 at an Airline Highway truck stop in Reserve and for selling the drug to undercover drug agents two other times.
Pittman was elected in October 2002 and is the town’s first black police chief. He assumed the position in January 2003 and makes $24,000 a year, Poche said.