BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Strong opinions are forming on both sides of the issue about whether Baton Rouge Police officers should be forced to live only in East Baton Rouge Parish.
"There are some officers who come into the black community that don't have an inkling of an idea of black culture," said Gerard Robinson, a pastor at McKowen Missionary Baptist Church. "We tend to maybe bring in people who are not familiar with the culture of certain areas, which tend to bring about a different level of tension."
Those are the main reasons some local pastors and community leaders want a requirement that newly hired BRPD officers live inside the parish. The police department itself is against the idea.
"We as a Baton Rouge Police Department would not be in support of any type of restrictions on our applicant pool or hiring processes in restricting, let's say, to a jurisdiction within East Baton Rouge Parish," said BRPD's Deputy Chief David Hamilton.
With a low starting salary and the risks with the job, BRPD Union's President Sgt. Bryan Taylor said recruitment is already difficult. Right now, the department has 52 openings.
"Unfortunately, today's day is not a good time to be a police officer. I'm sorry it doesn't if you look at the nation as a whole," Taylor said.
Neither of these men live inside Baton Rouge, but both said for the past 21 years, they have been protecting the streets and people of the Capital City.
"I have lived in Ascension Parish my entire life, and I couldn't imagine somebody telling me I couldn't be a Baton Rouge Police officer because I lived a few hundred yards past the jurisdictional line," Hamilton said.
"Know that just because I live in Zachary, I am in the parish because two weeks ago, I wasn't good enough to work for this police department because I wasn't inside the city limits. I take offense to that. I think I'm one of the best police officers on this police department," Taylor said.
East Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks first presented the idea of BRPD officers being restricted to living only within the city. She changed it two weeks ago to living within East Baton Rouge Parish.
However, Councilman Joel Boe said his own research shows more than 90 percent of officers already do live within the parish or very close to it.
The furthest point in East Baton Rouge Parish from Baton Rouge's City Hall is 27.5 miles. Boe requested zip codes for all 665 BRPD officers and found approximately 613 live within 27.5 of City Hall, regardless which parish they live in. The remaining live outside that area.
District Attorney Hillar Moore, who was also at the meeting, said he is against any residency requirements for the staff within his own office.
If approved, this would apply to new officers. Those already living outside the parish would be allowed to stay where they are.
The Metro Council will vote on the issue at Wednesday's meeting.