- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) - With 14 years in the Thibodaux Police Department, Lt. Jason Naquin is answering a question he first asked himself when he was 17.

Soon after graduating high school, a close friend of Naquin’s was killed in a crash along with his girlfriend. Witnesses told Naquin beer cans littered the floor of the car that hit the couple head-on at 70 mph.

At the time, blood alcohol tests weren’t mandatory for fatal crashes, Naquin said. The other driver was ticketed for improper lane usage.

“I just always wondered if I could do something to try to prevent that in the future,” said Naquin, 41. “I went through several years with that question in the back of my mind. But I always felt like, ‘I don’t have what it takes to do that type of job. I don’t think I’m really brave enough.’”

When his sister, a Lafourche sheriff’s deputy at the time, suggested a career in law enforcement, he decided to give it a try.

A few months after Naquin joined Thibodaux Police, a bicycle patrol member asked if he’d be interested in joining the team. He completed a certification course that taught him how to ride on stairs and dismount, especially in a pursuit. Cyclists can ride side-saddle for a distance before braking about a foot away from the suspect, dropping the bike and continuing the chase on foot.

“A lot of us face planted,” Naquin said. “They made sure we did that on the grass, that we weren’t on the cement.”

Naquin eventually took over as bike patrol commander. Before that, he said, the patrol was mainly used for special occasions, such as Mardi Gras. Naquin repaired the department’s old bikes, had them repainted and got new ones donated.

The team joined with other local law enforcement agencies to talk to community members and ride at night. Traveling in packs of up to 15, they would even sometimes make drug arrests.

“We come from around the side of a house, and this guy’s in a vehicle and sees us,” Naquin recalled. “As he leans back, he throws a little bag on the ground. It was crack. One officer came out, and then we started peeling out and we had the whole vehicle surrounded.”

As detail coordinator, Naquin scheduled officers for off-duty work. Now, he supervises a shift, advising officers and accompanying them on calls as needed. He’s also a field training officer for new recruits. Because he was interested in DWIs, Naquin helped teach classes for four years to get certified as a field sobriety and Breathalyzer instructor.

“That was just part of becoming a better, well-rounded officer,” Naquin said of his varied experience. “I’ve always thought that part of being an effective officer is knowing a little bit of everything, especially as a supervisor.”

The father of a 6-year-old, Naquin said one of his greatest pet peeves is when parents try to scare their children into behaving by telling them an officer will arrest them. He said children need to know they can trust the police, and he believes staying active in the community can help make officers more approachable and aid in preventing crime.

Naquin said the way he talks to others can persuade them to take a Breathalyzer test when they would otherwise refuse. He said his job is not just about sending people to jail but making a positive impact on their lives, and he hopes charging people with DWIs will help rehabilitate them.

“I’m not looking at it like, ‘Yeah, I got another arrest!’” he said. “I think of it like that’s one person that’s still going to be alive tomorrow morning.”

Before joining law enforcement, Naquin worked in oilfield construction. He said he wasn’t happy and felt like he was just working to make money. Now, things have changed.

“It just wasn’t rewarding. I had no passion,” he said. “I find this job is for me. I’ve found my path in life.”

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Information from: Daily Comet, https://www.dailycomet.com

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