Former police chiefs take on elected vs. appointed position

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's a question many are asking: should the position for Baton Rouge police chief be elected or remain appointed.

"The public needs to have a choice," said former Gonzales Police Chief Bill Landry.

The voters pick or the mayor appoints?

"It's a system that most major cities follow," said former BRPD Chief Greg Phares.

Landry served for 16 years. He was elected and won by only four votes back in 1993.

"You can't fool the voting public anymore. They're wise people. They know their candidates," said Landry.

If the position were to change to elected, a chief would be on a term taking the firing authority away from the mayor.

The police chief candidates would be limited to individuals living only within Baton Rouge city limits. Because there's also the risk of electing someone without adequate law enforcement experience, Landry feels experience and training requirements should be set. The former chief said the change would also reduce all the politics.

"There's not as much leverage that a police chief would have when he's appointed because he has to answer to the mayor or the council. When you're in an elected position, you answer to everyone," said Landry.

"It's a political position, no question," said Phares.

Phares was appointed as the BRPD chief in 1991. He's also been through the election process when he ran for East Baton Rouge Sheriff in 2007.

"The current system where the mayor appoints the chief is one that I think has worked pretty well in Baton Rouge for many decades. Right now, things are in turmoil, but the system itself, I don't think is broke," said Phares.

Phares said neither system is perfect. While the appointed system gives the mayor complete control, Phares said the elected system includes a different type of politics.

"It doesn't mean that money doesn't talk. It does," said Phares.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will take up the elected vs. appointed issue at Wednesday's meeting. Depending on if the council votes and sends it to the people for a vote, it could end up on the ballot as early as October 19th.

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