Template:Infobox Officeholder Elmer B. Litchfield (January 29, 1927 - August 2, 2008) was a long-serving sheriff of populous East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, known for his modernization of law-enforcement procedures.
A Republican in an historically, but decreasingly Democratic state, Litchfield was first elected as sheriff of East Baton Rouge in 1983 and won large majorities in his five subsequent reelections. He retired because of health problems, effective December 1, 2006, with more than a year remaining in his sixth term.
Litchfield was a native of Meridian, Mississippi, the seat of Lauderdale County. He graduated from the University of Mississippi at Oxford in 1950. He served nearly two years in the United States Marine Corps.
Litchfield launched his career in law enforcement with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1951. He worked as a special agent in Boston and Chicago, and eventually in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He retired from the FBI in 1979 and then served with the Louisiana State Commission on Law Enforcement until he was elected sheriff.
Colonel Greg Donald Phares (born 1956), the chief criminal deputy, succeeded Litchfield as acting sheriff. Phares, a Republican was defeated in the November 17, 2007, general election by the Democrat, Sid J. Gautreaux, III, the veteran police chief in Baker. Gautreaux polled 40,624 (52 percent) to Phares' 38,224 (48 percent) in an election with a 31 percent turnout. In the primary, Phares had led Gautreaux, 46-37 percent, but the combined overall Democratic vote was then 51 percent. Gautreaux became sheriff immediately because the election was a combination general election and a special election for the months left in Litchfield's term.
Phares declared Litchfield "one of the finest law enforcement officers I’ve ever worked for." Litchfield announced in 2004 that he would not run again and that he strongly supported Phares as his successor. Litchfield and Phares met in 1973, when Phares was serving as a city police detective, and Litchfield was an FBI agent. They worked together on a bank robbery case.
During his almost six terms in office, Litchfield required all deputies to reside in East Baton Rouge Parish and canceled all special deputy commissions. He improved the parish jail system to the point that it was called one of the “most constitutionally operated system in the state", according to the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.
Litchfield was not the first Republican to run for sheriff in East Baton Rouge Parish. In 1975, the then Republican mayor of Zachary, Louisiana, Jack Louis Breaux, Sr. (1926–1980), ran for sheriff and nearly won a runoff slot against the Democratic incumbent J. Al Amiss, who served from 1972 until his death in office early in 1983.
Where Breaux fell short, Litchfield made winning the office of sheriff seem easy. Litchfield's reelection margins ranged from 82 percent in 1987 to 85 percent in 1991, 68 percent in 1995, 83 percent in 1999, and 78 percent in 2003. Such totals indicate that he obtained large majorities except from those who either objected to his tenure as sheriff or who vote straight Democratic tickets.
Republican sheriffs are rare in Louisiana: in many of the sixty-four parishes, no serious Republican candidate has ever fared strongly in a sheriff's election. In a few parishes, no Republican has run for sheriff in modern times. The sheriff collects property taxes and enforces the law in parts of counties outside corporation limits. Many Louisiana voters consider the sheriff one of the most important public officials.
At his retirement reception, Litchfield said that he would particularly miss his employees and the public "very much. People have been very kind."
Former State Representative Donald Ray Kennard of Baton Rouge told Litchfield: "We love you and will miss you. We are proud of you for the contributions you have made to the country, the state, and the parish." Kennard presented Litchfield with a plaque from the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeffery Earl "Jeff" LeDuff said that he began his law enforcement career in 1983, when Litchfield won his first of six terms as sheriff. "I’ve always found the sheriff to be a great law enforcement mind", LeDuff told the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.
Before his sheriff's tenure, Litchfield was the executive director of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice.
Mike Barnett, a retired colonel from the Sheriff’s Office with thirty-seven years of service, said that he met Litchfield while working with the FBI as a bank robbery investigator. “Litchfield is a kind, good man and is the best of bosses,” said Barnett, who was Litchfield’s assistant and chief criminal deputy. “He gave you a job and let you do it, and he wouldn’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do himself."
Barnett also said Litchfield was more of a law enforcement man than a politician. Litchfield said on several occasions that if you "do the right thing, the politics will take care of the rest", Barnett said.
Silas M. Geralds, who retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2004 after thirty-seven years of service, said that Litchfield treated everyone equally and with respect. “He demands respect and he gives respect,” said Geralds, who retired as a lieutenant colonel. “If it wasn’t for the sheriff, we (the office) wouldn’t be as forward and advanced as we are today."
Litchfield was married to the former Mississippian Margery Ann Evans (June 6, 1931 - April 19, 2005). The EBR sheriff's department honored the memory of Mrs. Litchfield by naming its new nautical Special Weapons And Tactics team the "Miss Margery".
In retirement, Litchfield planned to spend half his time in Baton Rouge, where his son Gary Stephen Litchfield (born 1958) resides, and the other half in Memphis, Tennessee, the home of his daughter, Marla L. Steepleton (born 1964). Litchfield had several health problems, including heart bypass surgery, prostate cancer, and most recently surgery to repair a hernia.
Litchfield died in Baton Rouge at the age of eighty-one. His funeral is planned for August 7, 2008, at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, with the Reverend Martin W. Corie officiating. Arrangements were under direction of Rabenhorst Funeral Home East. He was to be interred beside his wife in Greenoaks Memorial Park.
- ↑ Sid Gautreaux Sheriff
- ↑ http://www.2theadvocate.com/; http://www400.sos.louisiana.gov:8090/cgibin/?rqstyp=elcpr&rqsdta=11170717
- ↑ Louisiana Secretary of State-Parish Elections Inquiry
- ↑ Ex-EBR sheriff Litchfield dies at 81