Lawmaker to sponsor bill giving Baton Rouge mayor power to oust BRPD chief

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A state representative says he will offer a bill at the capitol this spring giving the Baton Rouge mayor the power to oust the Baton Rouge Police Chief.

"The plan of government says the mayor has the authority to hire and fire. We want to make sure the state law doesn't conflict with that," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.

Under current state law, the BRPD chief can only be removed with cause – otherwise they have to step down voluntarily.

James said the legislation he will sponsor will change that, giving mayors going forward the power to pick and fire their own chief, much like they would other members of their staff.

"The voters select the mayor based on the vision they lay out for our community, and I think it's important for the mayor to have a police chief who is going to share that vision," James said.

Throughout her campaign, newly installed Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome repeatedly talked about replacing BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie. However, after three months in office, that has not yet happened, even with some face-to-face discussions between the two.

"Our communications have been very positive and progressive," Broome said a few weeks ago before the Baton Rogue Press Club.

Broome cannot force Dabadie out and she cannot fire him just because she wants to.

Across the state, several cities have civil service protections for police chiefs much like in Baton Rouge, including Shreveport and Alexandria. Other cities, like New Orleans and Hammond, give the mayor the power to choose.

"In order to move forward, we need to have a chief in place that the mayor is comfortable with and vice-versa," said Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, who ran against Broome and others in the recent campaign.

Marcelle said she likes the idea of the bill, but wants to make sure chiefs have the option to return to the force if a mayor wants someone new.

"If in four years, if that mayor is not reelected and a new mayor comes in, where does that chief go?" Marcelle said.

James said they are working to take that concern into consideration.

An important note: James said even if his bill were to become law, it would only apply going forward. Broome would still not have the power to oust Dabadie.

BRPD declined to comment on the proposed legislation. The head of the Baton Rouge Police Union did not want to comment until the actual text of the bill was filed. A spokeswoman for the mayor's office did not respond when asked if Broome supports the measure.

The legislative session kicks off on Monday, April 10.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.