BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The City of Baton Rouge is sitting in an uncomfortable position... it’s stuck in a rut of violence and gunshots.
“Ten bodies in ten days is unacceptable,” said Deputy Chief Robert McGarner with the Baton Rouge Police Department.
The crime wave is happening just as the city fights tooth and nail to rebuild. BRPD Chief Murphy Paul addressed the uptick during a press conference Friday morning.
“We cannot reach a point in this city where we become desensitized to the violence,” said Chief Paul.
The International Chiefs of Police applied for a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and offered this initiative to cities that have seen trauma. BRPD is working on a project funded by the DOJ to help get law enforcement and the community back on the same page. BRPD says they’ve been working on this project since the latter part of 2017.
It’s called the Collective Healing Initiative. Baton Rouge, along with five other cities across the country, was chosen as a Demonstration Site for the Vision 21 project. Cities facing similar issues of attempting to bounce back following traumatic events were given the chance to participate.
It’s a 2-year grant worth $750,000.
BRPD will work with community advocacy groups to come up with a program that can be duplicated in the event other cities go through the same issues, such as divisiveness between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
BRPD is partnering with 100 Black Men, NAACPBR, LSU, Southern University, Capital Area Human Services, and the Office of the Mayor-President. Those groups will come up with a plan to address and stop high-profile violence in its tracks, and if the plan works, share it nationally with cities facing similar issues.
In an effort to make sure kids stay safe and don’t catch on, particularly at school, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) is planning to beef up security. “We do have some schools that are in need of new security features, new security systems,” said Taylor Halsey Gast, director of communications & public relations for EBRPSS.
Gast says a lot of their newer facilities have cameras in the doorbells, limiting entrance points into schools. “But a lot of schools just have out of date security cameras, so this is really important to get all those schools us to date,” she said.
The grant is through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). It’s called the School Violence Prevention Program. It’s worth $295,399.
On top of those upgrades, at select middle and high schools in the district, pretty soon an app will allow anyone to report suspicious behavior on campus, sending the tip straight to the police, removing the middleman. The improvement comes through a grant by the DOJ. It’s called STOP School Violence Threat Assessment & Technology Reporting Program. It’s worth $198,007.
The mobile reporting app will be offered to students, parents, teachers, and community members to report incidents anonymously that could lead to school violence.
“We want to be sure to give law enforcement that advantage, so if something that is going on, we can get that information on our laptop and on phone so before we arrive we can get in there as quickly as possible to eliminate the threat if it is indeed happening or prior to,” said Sgt. L’Jean McKneely with BRPD.
The award is for two years. Recipients must contribute a minimum of a share of 25 percent.
BRPD says as they attempt to change the way the community looks at police and regain trust, there is no better time to help than now.