BR Police Chief announces changes in department

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge's top cop is re-organizing the city's police department.

Chief Dewayne White announced on Tuesday he is increasing the number of officers on the front lines by 25 percent. But that move will mean some changes on the force.

Baton Rouge's newest officers, 33 men and women, joined the ranks of the city police department at the end of last year. As cadets they learned how to gauge speed, direct traffic, properly use firearms, drive on the job and even brushed up on DWI laws.

But Lt. Don Kelly said the learning is not necessarily over.

"When the academy class graduates you get 30 new officers but they are very inexperienced officers, and at the same time those experienced veteran officers that have been wanting to transfer into specialty divisions are lost," Kelly explained.

Chief White plans to change that. The officers are now in the Field Training Officers, or FTO program. They will join the uniformed patrol division after they finish the course. But this time around, the officers who usually move into a specialty division will stay put.

"The demand for services has gone up and our staffing really hasn't increased over the years. He (the chief) feels like if we can increase the staffing and get sufficient officers out there that will give them time to respond to calls, to be more proactive and use community policing," Kelly said.

An additional 60 officers will join the current patrol team on the streets. The chief called those men and women "the public's first line of defense."

Lt. Kelly said the chief also plans to make some other moves within the department to keep patrol at a solid 60 through the end of the year.

The chief said he plans to put the same plan in motion when the next crew of cadets comes through.

Basic training starts in February.

The department says they expect a class of between 25 to 30 people.