Protesters interrupt police residency requirement meeting at City Hall

Protesters interrupt police residency requirement meeting at City Hall
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Protesters interrupted a special meeting at Baton Rouge City Hall regarding police and community issues Monday.

The agenda was focused on items related to the Baton Rouge Police Department, which included residency requirements, police policy changes, pay issues, and policing initiatives.

A group of protesters that were part of the #BlackOutBR movement gathered outside City Hall to voice their frustrations over the length of time it is taking for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide whether two Baton Rouge police officers will be charged in the shooting death of Alton Sterling.

When protesters learned a DOJ representative was part of that meeting, they decided to join in. Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie and District Attorney Hillar Moore were present.

"I think it is telling when there is a room full of preachers and politicians at the table with cards that have their names on it but protesters are not a part of that," said blogger Gary Chambers.

"And when I walk in here and see a bunch of people, and you know who you are, I am not going to say your name, who won't take back this message, damn it. Those days are over with," said community activist Arthur Reed.

Protesters surrounded relatives of Sterling who told leaders they have been quiet for too long.

"It's 90 days now. How much longer do I have to keep the peace?" said Lorna Sterling.

"I want some justice and I'm not going to wait for it. I am not going to wait for it," said Devita Sterling.

There is no word on when the DOJ will wrap its investigation, but in the meantime, EBR Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who facilitated the meeting, invited everyone in the room to become part of the process in helping the city move forward.

"Nobody has the magic answer in the magic booklet as to the solution. How Baton Rouge heals and how we come together after all this is going to to depend on all of us as a community," Wicker said.

It is the reason why the meeting was scheduled in the first place. Tarsha Smith, who showed up to be part of the protest, said she plans to start offering solutions instead.

"Put back the summer jobs in the community for the children. That way they have something to do to stay out of trouble, and that would keep down on some of the crime with the children," Smith said.

It is what community leaders said they hope to hear more of as they work to build a diverse group to lead a more positive change in the city.

Everyone was invited to a meeting at the River Center to discuss what they see as problems in the community and talk solutions. That meeting has not been scheduled yet.

RELATED: Alton Sterling shooting: A comprehensive timeline of events

The first special meeting was held Monday, September 12 and served more as a brainstorming session than a debate.

The proposed residency requirement amendment would require all new recruits with the Baton Rouge Police Department to live within city limits. The item was last discussed at a prior Metro Council meeting, which was just two days before the historic flooding began.

When last introduced, the proposal was fiercely debated with more than 30 people in favor of the measure dominating the microphone. The vote was delayed because they simply ran out of time.

"By law, we have to end the meeting at 8 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.

RELATED: BRPD residency requirements proposal automatically deferred until next council meeting 

The item was first introduced at the July 27 meeting by Councilwoman Chauna Banks. The item was struck from the agenda before it could be introduced due to the death of three law enforcement officers during an ambush shooting that happened on July 17.

Those in opposition say the requirement would put an additional strain on an already taxed police department. 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.

If approved, this would apply to new officers. Those already living outside the parish would be allowed to stay where they are.

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