Sheriff Mark Herford values community interaction
Beauregard Parish Sheriff Mark Herford admits he still struggles to sit behind a desk in his civilian office. Not quite two years into his new position, the dedicated former detective seeks any opportunity to get out into the community and interact with the people of his parish. Last week, that opportunity came in the form of reading to KR Hanchey’s elementary school students when he participated in the nationwide Read Across America Week campaign.
“It was a very fun experience. I love being around children and I think it’s more important than ever to reach out to children in the community and provide them with positive experiences with law enforcement. I hope to make a positive impression that shows children that law enforcement, especially here in Beauregard Parish, cares about them and their future,” Herford said.
Herford always considered himself a servant of the community in all the positions he held in law enforcement. He began his law enforcement career with the BPSO in January 1992 under Sheriff Bolivar Bishop. While Herford credits his parents with instilling the moral values by which he still acts, he said Sheriff Bishop was a strong influence on his professional life.
“Sheriff Bishop gave me the opportunity at a young age to better myself, and I will always be grateful that he gave me the opportunity to learn more in this profession. I wouldn’t be who I was. am for him,” Herford said.
In 1994, Herford moved with his family to Monroe while his wife attended a pharmacy school program. There he worked under Chief of Police Joe Stewart and was assigned to a multi-jurisdictional narcotics team. He learned the intricacies of narcotics investigations and the effects these crimes can have on local communities.
“There is much more to narcotics than drugs. When you have an increase in drug activity, you also have an increase in other crimes like property crimes and theft, and so when you stop drug activity, you help all other members of the community. That’s really what’s at the heart of narcotics work,” Herford said.
In 1999, Herford returned to Beauregard Parish and brought his narcotics skills to BPSO. In 2000, he was brought into the narcotics task force and he quickly rose through the ranks of the detective division. In 2003, he became one of only 1% of law enforcement officers to be accepted into the FBI National Academy and in December of that year he was appointed Chief of Detectives at the BPSO. He held that position until he decided to run for sheriff in 2019, a decision he says surprised even himself.
“It was never a goal I had for myself; I never had a set plan to run one day. It wasn’t until I heard that Sheriff (Ricky) Moses was retiring that for the first time I thought “well, maybe I should give it a try” and the more I thought about it, the more I was getting comfortable with the idea,” he said.
Herford has focused his campaign on meeting the needs long demanded by the community. He handed out “punched cards” to residents with a list of goals and he insisted on being held accountable for completing each one if they elected him.
“My word is the most precious thing I have and I always do my best to keep any promise I make. I wanted people to know that I expected them to hold me accountable,” he said. Herford said.
Today, Herford reviews that list and humbly verifies almost everyone. He has increased patrols and opened substations in areas of the parish that previously experienced a lack of police presence and dangerously long response times. He also increased the staff in the narcotics task force. Drawing on his training and extensive experience, Herford said he knows firsthand the incredible needs of this department and how much needed it is in the parish. Within a year of his swearing in, narcotics-related arrests had increased by almost 50% in the parish of Beauregard.
In June 2021, Herford was appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to the Louisiana Drug Control and Violent Crime Police Board.
While these are proud accomplishments in themselves, they are all the more impressive considering the challenges faced by Herford during his first year and a half as sheriff. He was sworn in in the summer of 2020, at the height of a global pandemic, followed by hurricanes Laura and Delta, unprecedented flooding and then a winter ice storm.
“I could never have dreamed of the things this parish would face in a year, and certainly not my first year as sheriff, but I give so much credit to the men and women who work for me because we all have worked together to get through this. I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
Internally, Herford has worked hard to let his deputies and employees know that they are valued. He provided pay raises at all levels and reinstated a ranking system which he said improved morale. He is also focused on providing training opportunities to enable his deputies to become some of the most skilled deputies in the region.
Still, he readily admits there is still a lot of work to be done.
“There’s always room for improvement. I even keep a notepad on my bedside table because some nights I can’t sleep and I try to jot down every idea that comes to mind. and that could improve the lives of residents of Beauregard Parish,” he said.
“I believe there are many good things to come for the parish, and now that the Covid restrictions have eased, I look forward to meeting more with the community to hear about needs that I am unaware of. More importantly, I hope people realize that I really care about everyone; I’m everyone’s sheriff and have no personal preference for one community over another. That’s why I keep an open door policy. If there’s anything I can do for someone, I want to hear about it.