As a student at St. Joseph’s Seminary College, a Benedictine college and monastery in Covington, Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard wasn’t always focused on a career in law enforcement. Growing up with “the best pastors in the world, phenomenal men of God,” he initially felt called to study theology.
During summer breaks, however, he worked as a part-time deputy for Cameron Parish Sheriff Sono Savoie, and his interest in law enforcement was piqued. Aguillard realized his true calling was law enforcement, and he’s never looked back.
A friendship with legendary attorney J. B. Jones led Aguillard to understand that a career in law was also a ministry. Jones helped Aguillard navigate the path into law school; he studied at Southern University Law Center while working as a patrol deputy for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Aguillard returned home after law school graduation to serve as an assistant DA in Cameron Parish and established the 38th Judicial District’s first crime victim assistance program. He missed Baton Rouge, however and yearned to return.
A chance meeting with Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub at a silent retreat at the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Grand Coteau led to Aguillard being hired as a special agent at the Louisiana Department of Justice. He served dual roles as prosecutor and investigator and was the only lawyer “walking around with a gun on his hip” as he jokingly recounted.
While at the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, Aguillard was a founding member of the High Technology Crime Unit. Aguillard credits Ieyoub for his far-sightedness and early understanding that the proliferation of cell phones would transform the manner in which crimes are perpetrated. The AG’s office took steps to effectively combat the consequences of digital media in criminal activity and Aguillard served as the first commander of the Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. This service led to his niche in prosecuting and deterring online sexual exploitation of children.
Aguillard served as director of the Internet Crimes Division of the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office immediately prior to his appointment as Chief in Lafayette.
Warm-hearted and humble, Chief Aguillard jokingly says that he has taken the road less traveled. Yet, he is serious when he affirms his belief that maintaining the trust of the entire community is crucial to preventing and solving crimes. His faith remains with him, step by step, in ensuring that all citizens receive the justice to which they are entitled.
Continuing the community outreach program initially begun under Deputy Chief Reginald Thomas, officers walk door to door to meet with residents, which has gone quite well. In fact, Chief Aguillard recently received a call from a British member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police to inquire about Lafayette’s walking program. The force is also receiving more training on how to deal with mentally ill people and de-escalate situations before they lead to deadly outcomes. Each uniformed officer is outfitted with a body camera to help document interactions with the public.
In closing, Aguillard shared effective ways to protect yourself. First, lock your possessions up! Whether it’s your vehicle or your home, thieves look for easy targets. Make it hard on them by taking a moment to double-check your locks. Take your gun out of your car so it’s not targeted for theft. Don’t use your cell phone while driving or walking around; people get hit by cars while distractedly crossing the street, especially on UL’s campus. And last, if you see a crime or witness suspicious activity, pick up the phone and dial 911. We can all make a difference working together.
We continued our conversation after the podcast was over, visiting with Jason Sikora who engineers Discover Lafayette. For helpful tips on how to stay safe and help your neighbors, please listen to more of our conversation here. For more information on the Lafayette LA city police department, please visit their website.