BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A controversial item concerning residency for city police was automatically deferred as Wednesday night's East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting ended before a vote could be called.
The item, which would require new applicants with the Baton Rouge Police Department to live within the parish limits, will be brought back up on the council's next meeting.
The proposal was fiercely debated and dominated much of the meeting. Many people say they were disgusted that something like race relations is still playing a divisive role in the community.
"I think about the many years and the many months and hours of our time that we have put into this issue," said Betty Claiborne.
More than 30 people, mostly in favor of the measure, approached the microphone to share their thoughts on the topic. In the end, the council simply ran out off time, delaying the vote yet again.
"By law we have to end the meeting at 8:00 p.m., and if there's not a vote that happens by then, ultimately what ends up happening is that item is suspended until we pick up at the next council meeting," said Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who presided over the meeting.
Councilwoman Chauna Banks, who authored the proposal, said while it is not quite a victory, she does not walk away from the meeting defeated.
"I think that the number of people who were out and what they said, giving them that opportunity allowed our entire council both black and white to see the level of frustration, hurt, pain and hopelessness," Banks added.
Council members also had a chance to weigh in on the idea. Many said they simply need more time and stressed the importance of doing the right thing rather than making a quick decision.
"Over the last three and a half years, you know we've acted swiftly in error many times, and we can't afford to do that on an issue like this," said Councilman Ryan Heck.
"I will not vote for this measure," said Councilman John Delgado.
While some council members have vowed they will not budge on the matter, the hope is more time will allow for more clarity and cooperation.
"This is really what this democratic process is all about just everyone having the chance to voice their concerns, get involved in important issues that affect them, their children and their community," Wicker said.
This is not the first time the controversial measure has come before the council.
It was first brought up at the council meeting on July 27. However, it was struck from the meeting's agenda before it could be introduced.
During that July meeting, 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.
Some local pastors and community leaders met on Monday, August 8 to discuss the proposed requirement, which the police department itself is against.
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.
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.
If approved, this would apply to new officers. Those already living outside the parish would be allowed to stay where they are.