Middleton receives Louisiana Deputy Sheriff of the Year award

Published 3:50 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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FERRIDAY, La. — Concordia Parish Sheriff Office’s Chief Deputy Fred Middleton was chosen out of 64 Louisiana parishes to receive the Deputy Sheriff of the Year award from the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association.

The award recognizes a chief deputy who shows “unusual initiative and imagination in the performance of his or her duty and recognizes activities that improve the quality of life in their community,” according to the nomination form.

This award is a first for any Chief Deputy in Concordia Parish and represents the accomplishments of the agency as a whole, Middleton said.

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“I just work and we created a good team over here,” he said. “Two years ago, we had the honor to be recognized with the 2022 Leaders in Law Enforcement Award and then to come back and have this recognition this time — that’s a lot to be a small rural parish.”

With Sheriff David Hedrick’s blessing, Middleton acting as the COO of the department identified ways to fund the Cyber Crime Unit and Victims Advocacy Center. These have earned CSPO national attention since their implementation.

The CCU started shortly after David Hedrick’s administration as sheriff began four years ago. Hedrick ran on a campaign to protect the parish’s most vulnerable, the children and the elderly.

“That’s how the Cyber Crime Unit was created,” Middleton said. “It just snowballed in the last three years and our technology has greatly expanded in the last three months. We’ve just received a $70,000 grant that allowed us to expand. Our capabilities now are right on par with the AG’s office. It’s impressive.”

These capabilities include being able to extract evidence from locked devices using specialized software that is industry-recognized. This software has proved invaluable to the apprehension of criminals, allowing detectives to analyze computers, hard drives, thumb drives, cellphones, tablets, and a vast array of other storage media devices.

This technology also comes with a big price tag, so Middleton reached out to organizations with similar missions, such as The Underground Railroad, and was successful in partnering with such organizations who would make significant contributions to help with the start-up of the CCU.

Middleton said besides growing the space and adding new technology in recent months, the CCU has also added another employee. Randy Gohn comes to CPSO straight from the Attorney General’s office with 20 years of experience. He works alongside Detective Stephen Lipscomb to crack cybercrime cases from inside the Community Justice Center in Ferriday.

The center, which opened two years ago, is located at the center of the parish and allows people to do any business that they would do at the courthouse in Vidalia, including paying taxes. But its primary reason for opening was in response to the growing need for services for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

It includes a soft interview room dubbed “Hope’s Space,” which is named for one of the victims.

Brandy Spears works out of the Community Justice Center acting as CPSO’s victim advocate and helps abused women and children receive legal and support services.

“That’s never been done before,” Middleton said. “All of this has been a big part of our success.”

Middleton also gave credit for the department’s success and his own recognition to Sheriff David Hedrick, who nominated him for the award.

“The sheriff is the most unselfish person I’ve had the opportunity to be around and he gives us the employees the opportunity to perform and do all we need to do,” he said.

Prior to coming to work for CPSO, Middleton founded Big M Supply Company. Middleton said he started working at CPSO when Hedrick took office to help with the administrative and political duties that office entails so that the sheriff could continue being hands-on as an experienced law enforcement officer.

“He said to me ‘I’ve got 30 years of law enforcement experience. I just need someone to help manage the employees and the day-to-day of the department,’” Middleton said. “We house about 800 inmates and have 170 employees, so it’s a lot to handle every day. He also needed someone to help him navigate the political process, and obtain grants and things of that nature. … I enjoy sitting in the law enforcement side of it too and learning. It helps me with getting them the equipment that they need and the grants to do the things we need if I have a firsthand view of what they go through.”

Hedrick stated in a letter to LSA it’s his honor to nominate Middleton for the prestigious award.

“Surrounding agencies are taking notice of the services provided to victims in Concordia Parish. Several have asked about seeing Hope’s Space, the Center or speaking to Cyber Crime Investigators or the Victim Advocate to get input on providing similar services in their parish,” he said. “I am honored to nominate Chief Deputy Fred Middleton for the Deputy Sheriff of the Year Award for his unwavering commitment to the crime victims of Concordia Parish. I am incredibly proud of Chief Deputy Middleton for his ability to implement and obtain outside funding for the current programs we have in place that make it possible for our agency to protect victims and to provide them with life-changing services after the arrests are made.”