Metro Council rejects police residency requirements, other reforms

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council rejected a controversial residency requirement for new Baton Rouge police officers, along with a handful of other proposed police reforms.

The council has debated, deferred and delayed the reforms that were all authored by Councilwoman Chauna Banks since July.  Other measures included a 10 percent pay increase for officers, a pay incentive for officers to live within the parish, and the establishment of a citizen's advisory board.

The one measure that council members did pass was symbolic - a non-binding agreement asking the city to set aside money in 2018 for a consultant to help with recruiting officers in minority communities.

"We are not ready. If the city is ever turned upside down as it relates to an incident between police officers and citizens again, whether they're in our community or out, we are going to have to say we sat on our hands and we didn't do anything," said Banks after the measures failed.

Much of the divide among members seemed to be the method of the reforms, not necessarily the ideas.

Several members complained that Banks had not consulted with the rest of the council before proposing her reforms in July. Others were not confident in the research or methodology.

"When there's a council member that comes with an agenda item, they don't have to come to everybody and have a Kumbaya meeting. Otherwise, our meetings for the last 15 seconds. That's just crazy," Banks said.

Banks also indicated that the community was tired of talking and ready to see action from leaders.

Things got particularly heated between Banks and fellow Democrat Councilwoman Tara Wicker. Wicker along with Councilman Trae Welch have been working to hold community meetings to get input on what residents want to see in terms of police reform.

The city recently hosted two public meetings with the goal of turning that community input into a guide for new policy. Wicker hopes that policy paper will be ready to present to the council by the end of the year.

"This is an important issue that will impact our community for generations and generations. We cannot afford to do something that we have not thought through, and are sure that it is something that will have systemic change and make a real difference," Wicker said.


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