Sheriff Tony Mancuso joined the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office at age 20.
“When I came to work here, all they gave you was a badge and a shirt.”
Mancuso is a local boy, from a good family that believed that work was honorable, and good for character development. Mancuso started working at age 14, at Prien Pines Nursery. During his teenage years he also cut grass, and later worked at Market Basket.
He graduated from Barbe, went to McNeese. His first job with the CPSO was entry level, working at the jail.
“I was just a kid when I came here.”
Decades later, here he is, headed towards the end of his 5th term as Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish.
Five Terms Later
Wayne McElveen was sheriff when Mancuso joined the force. Mancuso started in Corrections, hustled to get on Patrol, then to the Youth Division, and Crime Stoppers.
After 13 years as a deputy, Mancuso was elected Ward 3 City Marshall. He was re-elected Marshall in 2002. In 2003 Mancuso was elected Sheriff of Calcasieu Parish. He is currently in his 5th term. He’s decided it is to be his last.
Whether Good Or Bad, It’s His Fault
There’s a gap between what the public thinks a sheriff does, and what the job truly requires.
“People think being a sheriff is only about solving crime and putting people in jail.” But Mancuso has a budget of over $100 million. He’s the chief tax collector of the parish. Oversees the Real Time Crime Center, a regional training academy, a civil department, and operates a jail.
Even though Mancuso had been with the CPSO for quite a while before becoming sheriff, he still “didn’t realize the magnitude of how truly busy we’d be.”
The job has some routine, but law enforcement forces staff and deputies into reaction mode. “We are constantly adjusting and reacting to outside forces.”
“Love for people, being thick skinned, but having compassion,” those traits worked for Wyatt Earp in the 1800s, they worked for Ham Reid in the 1900s, and they worked for Tony Mancuso in the 2000s.
He’s toughened up over the years. He abides by this slogan, “If it’s good, it’s my fault. If it’s bad, its my fault.” The sheriff is clear on his core job, “My job is to help our staff do their jobs.” Simple as that? “Simple as that.”
I ask Mancuso, what’s the best part of the job? Quick answer, “Helping people. We are problem solvers.”
The worst part of the job? “Hurricanes, murders, rapes, crimes to children,” and unlike how it happens on TV shows, the grinding process of “trying to get conclusions.”
“If It’s Predictable, It’s Preventable”
In person, Mancuso comes across as a glass-half-full personality. Maybe that’s what it takes, to stay the point man of law enforcement for 5 terms. The stress hasn’t hardened him, or made him cynical of human nature.
Whereas the average citizen can live ‘n die in the same SWLA zip code, and never know all the bad deeds done out of sight, in dark of night, Mancuso, by the nature of his job, is spared none of the knowing. And yet, he smiles.
“We are a very safe, very good community. Very seldom is it stranger-on-stranger crime.” Last year, CPSO only had 2 murders, on average it is 6 to 8.
“The types of crimes have changed, more financial crimes, sex crimes.”
21st Century Law Enforcement
When he first got the job, “I felt like a carpenter building a home with only hand tools.” Over his tenure, the CPSO has evolved into very specialized, technical units.
“Now we have an entire forensics unit. We get called on by other law enforcement agencies for help. Our Marine Division is so well equipped that we’ve aided federal agencies.”
There’s more investment in training under Mancuso. “There’s training on dealing with mental health issues, even how to deal with someone who is autistic, for instance.”
Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All
Being sheriff is a 24-hour-a-day job. He and his wife were off on a well-earned vacation, when he gets the call, quadruple homicide. “Honey, got to get back…”
During Mancuso’s tenure, cold cases have been solved. One, from 35 years ago, was solved just this year.
There was the Trooper Vincent shooting in 2015. There have been three line-of-duty deaths during his time as sheriff.
There’s always this sense of “waiting for the shoe to drop.”
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all,” here comes a case too bizarre for a TV cop show plot, “who drives around in a car with a dead body for 30 days?”
“If You’re Not Hanging Up, You’re Not Fishing”
For “civilians,” who see Hurricanes Rita and Laura as being like unto a battle, and aftermath, how much more complex are hurricanes for law enforcement?
No electricity, whole towns and cities wide open for outsiders, staff dealing with their own hurricane damage… and in the middle of all that, during the Hurricane Laura aftermath, the department has to solve a double murder…
It’s no surprise that Mancuso started thinking about retirement in 2020 and 2021.
After all these years, in a job that feels 24/7, Mancuso was ready for a career change, and life change.
At the end of 2022, people “started fishing,” about whether he was going to run again.
He asked himself, “Is my heart in it?”
“I didn’t want to let people down.”
Then he decided, “This place will live on without me.”
His confirmation, that retirement was right for him, was when people started “putting up the signs for Stitch and he started getting the attention.” He was expecting to feel some second guessing. Instead, he felt only confirmation. “It’s time to go.”
“I’m leaving happy. I think I made a difference.”
Mancuso answers to his own code, some of it the code of his raising, by good, solid parents. “I was fair. I treated everyone like family. I showed compassion. I didn’t lie to people. I leave it better than I found it.”
He counts his blessings. “I had an unbelievable Mom and Dad, I have a wonderful wife and kids, I have perfect grandkids.
“When this is all gone, I’ll still have them.”