BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The first group of Baton Rouge Police recruits since the shooting death of Alton Sterling begin training on Monday. A BRPD spokesman says the group is considered one of the most diverse classes in recent memory.
Out of 28 recruits, 14 are white, 12 are black, one is Asian, and another is Hispanic. Men still hold the majority, however. Only five members of the class are women.
"We're excited about this academy class that's starting on Monday. We're eager to get them going and out on the street," said BRPD spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely.
The shooting death of Sterling at the hands of two BRPD officers back in July sent a shock wave through much of Baton Rouge. It once again raised questions about police conduct and inspired a series of protests throughout the city. The lack of diversity in the department was identified as a key problem.
Documents obtained by 9News through a public records request show that compared to the city they serve, BRPD lacks diversity. While only about 40 percent of the city is white, whites make up 65 percent of the police force. McKneely said the chief is making a concerted effort to increase diversity in his department, and the new recruiting class is part of that project.
"We want to make sure we provide the community with officers that can do the best job available that they can do, reflect the community. But not only reflect, but relate to the community," McKneely said.
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, said it was encouraging to see BRPD work to improve diversity on their own, especially after the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council rejected a series of measures aimed at police reform earlier this week.
"This training class directly reflects the community. I think this is what a lot of people in the community have asked for," James said. "For me, it's better that these reforms and this new diversity in the class came from within BRPD, it wasn't forced upon them. I think that will lead to people being more trusting."
Still, James said there is plenty more to do, including improving police training to focus on things like de-escalation techniques. BRPD said they routinely work to improve training techniques with each class.
The 22 week-long basic training begins Monday. Graduates will then spend three to four weeks riding with other officers.