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Internal Affairs team ready and working

Sgt. Boudreaux

Repository staff writer

CANTON — They are detectives who have worked side by side on countless cases, investigating people on the other side of the law. Now they’ve teamed up to investigate those sworn to uphold it.

In a bid to make more diverse, the police who investigate other police officers, Sgt. Greg Boudreaux has been named to the Police Department’s office of Internal Affairs. He joins Capt. James Myers, who has run Internal Affairs for the past five years.

“Everyone’s been very supportive,” Boudreaux said. “I appreciate the community’s calls and letters I’ve received. I’ve also been supported by the Police Department. I appreciate Chief (Thomas) Wyatt’s trust in me.”

Myers said he and Boudreaux have had a good working relationship in the past.

“When I was burdened with a lot of cases, I used Sgt. Boudreaux,” Myers said. “He has the respect of his peers. They trust him. He’s a good communicator with an eye for detail, and he’s a good interrogator. When the chief wanted to make the selection, I recommended Sgt. Boudreaux.”

Though the idea of policing their own has been criticized by some vocal citizens, Myers said every formal complaint filed against a police officer is thoroughly investigated, and that procedure is strictly followed.

“I would like to see the public have confidence in Internal Affairs,” he said. “We put in a lot of time, effort and expertise in each one of these (cases).”

The appointment of a minority to internal affairs comes alongside threats to target Canton for protests concerning alleged racial profiling by police. In recent weeks, the city has been visited by people vowing to disrupt this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities to make their point. But Myers said plans to add another officer have been in the works for about two years.

“The number of complaints has increased in the 12 years this office was opened,” he said. “I think the city saw that, too. I think it was mutually agreed upon that we needed to update the Internal Affairs department.”

Concerning allegations of profiling, Myers added, “Racial profiling, just to stop someone because of their race, is not good police work. All you’re going to do is cause more problems. The chief has made it known to each of us there is zero tolerance for racial profiling.”

“We’re not at war with the community,” Boudreaux said. “We don’t want to use tactics of being at war.”

Myers said Internal Affairs handled 73 cases in 1999, down slightly from 83 cases in 1998. Still, it is an dramatic increase over the number of complaints fielded when the unit first opened in 1988. The average number of cases then was about 20.

“The goal of Internal Affairs is to take this department and march it toward professionalism,” Myers said.

“We have a diverse work force in the police department,” Boudreaux said. “I think I’m qualified. Being a minority is an asset that goes along with my qualifications.”

A native of Kaplan, La., Boudreaux came to Canton as a child in the late 1960s. He graduated from McKinley High School and worked at The Timken Co. for eight years before joining the force in 1986. He is a grandson-in-law of the late Rev. Sheridan Lancaster, a police chaplain and local civil rights leader.

Holmes County-born Myers joined the force in 1968. He has headed the Internal Affairs Unit for the past five years. A former seminarian who once considered joining the priesthood, Myers holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati.

Asked if he will feel uncomfortable investigating his fellow officers, Boudreaux replied, “I have gotten some kidding from fellow officers, but that’s to be expected ... The search for truth, and controversy, is something I’ve dealt with in the past. It’s not a major concern. It’s the reality of the job.”

Calling internal affairs a system of “checks and balances,” Myers said what’s most difficult is convincing the public that police can investigate complaints objectively.

“I’m committed to the idea that we can,” he said. “In cities where they have citizen review boards, they’ve found that police are much harder on police than citizens are ... I stand focused and committed to the public that we’ll investigate any complaint. Any officer of any rank who violates a law or procedure will have to stand responsible for their actions.”

Boudreaux said he is not personally opposed to citizens’ review boards, adding that police procedures should be open to public scrutiny.

Sgt. Keane Toney, Boudreaux’s patrol partner for 10 years, called him a “straightforward individual.”

“He does quality investigative work,” Toney said. “He presents the facts as the facts present themselves. He’s an outstanding man, a good officer, and a good friend.”

This fall, Myers and Boudreaux will undergo special training for internal affairs at the Ohio Police Chiefs’ Association.