Community forum discusses body cameras, Istrouma High School

Community forum discusses body cameras, Istrouma High School

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Public safety and education are among the top concerns for any resident.  In a North Baton Rouge neighborhood, those two issues are intersecting with two different projects.

Community members got to discuss both with the groups in charge during a community forum hosted by city and state leaders.

First up was public safety and the Baton Rouge Police Department's pilot body camera program.

"We do want feedback from this community about what they want," said newly elected State Representative Denise Marcelle.

The residents that filled the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center on Gus Young Avenue live in the first district for BRPD.  It's there where the department is testing new body cameras.  With the program about half way through, BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie was on hand to explain their progress, and answer any questions.

"We're getting a lot of data, we're finding what works and what doesn't work with the body cameras," said Dabadie.

One thing that hasn't worked so far was the department's original choice for cameras.  The "L-3" brand cameras, says Dabadie, had poor quality video and lacked a secure clip.  Dabadie says if officers tried to run, the cameras would often fall off.  The cameras also lacked a pre-recording option, which captures about 30 seconds before the record button is hit.

Since discovering those problems, Dabadie says the district has switched to another brand with much better results.  A third brand will also be tested towards the end of the trial period.

According to BRPD, the 70 officers using body cams generate more than 3,000 videos each month, and has helped in cases.  For example, a recent officer involved shooting of Fairfields Avenue was captured both on the officer's dash cam and on body cameras.

"Always having another piece of evidence in any crime or any investigation is helpful," said Dabadie. Many of the questions from residents concerned the body camera policy, including if officers would be able to review footage before writing a report.

Marcelle, who is on the Body Camera Committee says those policy points are still being worked out.

Overall, those involved with the program say it's been a positive experience for both officers and residents.

Another issue of concern for residents is reopening Istrouma High School. Superintendent Warren Drake revealed his vision and hopes for the school, slated to open in August of 2017.

"An oasis for kids that they know when they come into that school they're going to be safe there," Drake told the crowd.  "They're going to learn something that they can take with them in the future."

Warren says they plan to move students from the current Brookstown Magnet School to Istrouma to reestablish the Istrouma Middle Magnet School.  The high school would be composed of students who live within the Istrouma attendance zone.  Finally, Drake says the school will have four career paths for any student focusing on manufacturing, skill crafts, consumer services and hospitality, and STEM.

Drake says the goal is to give kids the experience and certification to go from high school directly into a job if they choose.

"We're talking about something in the industrial arts piece that gives us certification, a piece of paper that says when I graduate, I am qualified to this in the industrial field," said Drake.

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