Office Janis Merritt poses Monday with Mayor Rodney Grogan after she was named interim Patterson police chief.

The Daily Review/Bill Decker

Janis Merritt named interim Patterson police chief

PATTERSON – The city has a new police chief, who will serve until the November election picks a new chief.
The Patterson City Council approved the recommendation of Mayor Rodney Grogan in a special meeting Monday and named Officer Janis Merritt to be interim chief.
For 8-1/2 months, Merritt will be the successor to retired Chief Patrick LaSalle, whose last day on the job was March 30.
Merritt, a native of Patterson, is a veteran of 30 years in law enforcement, 25 of them in Morgan City and five in Patterson. She describes her most recent assignment as being a patrol officer on the beat.
“We have great officers next door,” Merritt said after the meeting in the council chambers, adjacent to the police department’s headquarters. “There’s a lot of community policing that we do.
‘There are some changes that need to be made. As I said earlier, I intend to work with the mayor and council in order to bring the department forward, be proactive in bringing the department forward.”
She didn’t specify what sort of changes she had in mind.
Merritt will be a woman in a traditionally male role, but she doesn’t see that as a challenge.
“Not really,” she said. “I’m going to do my job regardless.”
Grogan said at Tuesday’s special meeting that Merritt was one of seven applicants for the interim position, the holder of which is prohibited by the city charter from running for the post in the upcoming election.
One of the applicants dropped out before the interviews by a seven-person selection panel, which included council members John Rentrop and Sandra K. Turner. The vote on Grogan’s recommendation was 3-2.
Rentrop, Larry Mendoza and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Russo III voted for Merritt. Fellow council members Travis Darnell and Turner voted no.
Turner was seen after the meeting offering Merritt her congratulations.
The primary election for the next chief will be Nov. 6, which is a Tuesday to coincide with the U.S. House of Representatives race. Qualifying will be July 18-20.
If necessary, the runoff would be Dec. 8.

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