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Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

Lunch with Harriet

After nearly half a century, Steve Prator is still passionate about his job

The best place to meet Steve Prator for lunch, I was told, was in his office in Government Plaza. The only question was: What in the world do I pick up for lunch with the Caddo Parish sheriff? I was told he likes fried chicken (particularly gizzards), turkey club sandwiches and if it was a salad, ham or turkey.

I had heard great things about Doc’s Sandwich Shop, so I thought I’d give it a try. I went with the Mattie Club BLT, which turned out to be a big hit. “Best sandwich I ever had,” he said.

When the end of January rolls around, Steve Prator will have served in law enforcement for 50 years. Most people, after 50 years in a career, would start thinking about retirement.

Technically, Prator did retire – after 27 years of service in the Shreveport Police Department. But he wasn’t done with public service. His first term as Caddo Parish sheriff began in 2000, and in June 2020, he was sworn into office for his sixth term.

So now, after nearly 50 years in public service, is the 70-yearold thinking about retirement?

Prator might consider it, but there’s just one problem: He can’t find anything he is as passionate about as what he’s been doing for practically half a century. The only thing that comes close is fishing, which he does as often as possible with trips to his place in Orange Beach, Ala.

Hunting? “I like to shoot sporting clays,” he says, “but I don’t like killing things.”

Prator can’t imagine doing anything else – except, maybe, one thing.

“If I hadn’t gone into police work,” he says, “I would have been a school teacher.”

Actually, Prator has done both. Back when he was a narcotics officer, Prator took an extra job as a substitute teacher at North Highlands Elementary School – the same school he attended when he moved to Shreveport from Clarksville, Tenn., in the second grade.

In those days, Prator wasn’t dreaming of being a police officer. He grew up raising cows and farming, so it looked like that’s how he would spend his life.

“Some people look all their lives and never find what they’re passionate about,” says Prator. “If you find that in life, you are fortunate. I’m lucky to have found my passion.”

Prator found it when he joined the Shreveport Police Department on Jan. 29, 1973. After 19 years, he served in various departments – robbery, homicide, narcotics – and rose to the rank of sergeant.

“I was so fortunate to have been part of it (law enforcement) back when reform was needed,” says Prator, who was called “college boy” by other officers. “I was frowned upon a number of times for not taking part in what was standard operating procedure at the time.”

So, when he was chosen as chief of police – the position he held for eightand-a-half years – Prator earned a new nickname: “Terminator Prator.”

“When I got to be chief of police,” he says, “I fired people for what used to be the standard when I first got hired. I fired a lot of people.”

As Caddo sheriff, Prator oversees a department of 681 full-time deputies, 99 part-time deputies, 54 reserves and 150 auxiliaries (according to 2020 numbers). His office’s main job, however, is maintaining the felony jail.

Once Shreveport police have booked someone into Caddo Correctional Center, Prator’s office takes over.

“Then we do everything,” he says. “We take them to court, feed and clothe them, house them and watch them. We deliver the subpoenas for court cases and take them to and froam court. When they’re convicted, we take them to Angola.”

Talking about maintaining the jail is when Prator’s voice takes a different tone. There is excitement in his voice.

“That building over there . . .” Prator says as he looks out the window toward the Caddo Courthouse, “in many cases, there’s a lack of urgency. There has to be a sense of urgency getting people to trial quicker. Until we get that, things won’t change.”

What needs to change, according to Prator, is the number of inmates at CCC.

“The jail was designed to hold 1,070 beds,” he says. “Right now, there are 1,400 in the building, and 1,100 inmates are awaiting trial. The number of bookings at CCC is less than ever, but the number awaiting trial is higher than ever.

“It costs $75 a day to hold one inmate. If that inmate waits four years to go to trial, that’s 75 times 365 times four. Do the math. Something’s wrong. Something’s got to be done.”

Prator pauses, looks over at me and smiles.

“That’s it,” he says. “That’s what I’m passionate about.”

Follow Harriet Penrod at the Shreveport-Bossier Journal at www.shreveportbossierjournal.com. Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com.


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