DENHAM SPRINGS – A more visible – and active – union is the goal of the Denham Springs police, according to its leader.

By active, he said he means being involved and helping the community, not strikes and demonstrations, the first thought of many when they hear the word “union.”  

“It provides a voice,” said Officer Daniel Bergeron, president of the union local, said of its recent change in affiliation to the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA).

Previously aligned with the Louisiana Union of Police Officers, Bergeron said the benefits offered by the IUPA were better. A strong selling point was full legal representation and legal defense plan, including an IUPA representative.

“We want to provide the best benefits we can for every officer, from from the veteran officer down to the newest man on the totem pole,” Bergeron said.

The International Union of Police Associations, with headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., was founded in 1954 as the National Conference of Police Associations. It now has 300,000 members.

IUPA dues are $10 a month, Bergeron said, compared to $12 to $14, with more services offered.

Besides help with legal representation, the IUPA offers financial, insurance and health services, educational opportunities, police products and home services, according to its website.

“The day we decided to join, their representative gave me his cellphone number and said if we need anything, call him,” Bergeron said.

The IUPA offers assistance on such items as equipment recommendation or budget issues and will send a representative to speak for the union, he said.

Bergeron said he took over as union president on Oct. 4 and a total of 27 officers -- 98 percent -- of the department have joined the union. Some older officers close to retirement have not joined, which is understandable, he said.

The union has no conflicts with the city, Bergeron said, and is working to maintain a strong relationship with officials. One goal of the union, he said, was to work with the city to lower the turnover rate of officers.

“We want to make it better for the officers with a few years in and families,” he said.

Bergeron has had regular meetings with Chief Shannon Womack and Mayor Gerard Landry.

“It is very important and helpful,” to make them aware of working conditions or issues that concern officers, Bergeron said.

Womack said while he is the chief, his greatest concern is for the safety of his officers and to see they have the best benefits.

“I am a dues-paying member of the union,” Womack said. “I was one of the 17 officers who founded the union in Denham Springs.”

Landry also has had an open-door policy, Bergeron added.

“I had an hour talk with mayor,” Bergeron said about one meeting, “just going over things. With this move, the union is looking to become more active, with community events, meetings, more hands-on,” Bergeron said.

The union is looking at participating in the community barbecue, which was established last year, and helping with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots campaign.

For Cinco de Mayo, the police union will have a tent set up at Papi’s to meet the public and offer treats for children.

The union also will have a cooking team at a May 19 crawfish boil for Nick Tullier, Livingston Parish resident and East Baton Rouge Parish deputy wounded in the 2016 ambush that claimed three officers.

The union also is working on a Facebook page and a new logo borrowing elements of Denham Springs.

But the police union has a few rules – it holds its meetings within the city limits, usually at a restaurant.

“We want to put money back in the city,” Bergeron said, adding attendance has been above 75 percent.

“Using local resources is big with us,” said Sgt. Landon Groger, union treasurer. “If we spend money, we want to spend it on our community.

“They give,” Groger said, referring to local businesses, “We want to give back.

“We want to let the community know we’re here and we want to use community resources.”

“We want to build relationships with the community,” Bergeron said. “We know the view of police officers today.

“It’s hard to change perceptions; we want to show it’s not what it used to be.”

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