Police reform bills breeze past first hurdle at La. state capitol

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Ten months after Alton Sterling died at the hands of a Baton Rouge Police officer, bills reforming police training and practices breezed past their first hurdle Thursday at the Louisiana capitol.

A House panel passed the measures unanimously, sending them to the House floor for a vote.

"Today was a huge step in the right direction," said Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.

Introducing his bills to the committee, James reflected on Sterling's death and the public outcry that followed. "Those of us in Baton Rouge endured a very, very tough summer," said James.

One of his bills aims to toughen police training standards statewide. The bill mandates 400 hours of basic training and 20 additional hours each year for all police officers. BRPD already exceeds those totals, according to the head of the Baton Rouge Union of Police.

The bill also requires that the training include de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques, as well as instruction on bias recognition.

"We want to keep the officers safe, we want to keep those they encounter safe," said James.

Hoping to crack down on bad cops, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, offered a bill creating a statewide database of disciplinary action taken against police officers. The database would allow law enforcement leaders to avoid hiring officers with a history.

"It means that he or she cannot go on to other law enforcement agencies after they've committed acts that are grounds for revocation," said Jackson.

"Now they're not going to be able to leave Baton Rouge and go to Livingston, or leave Livingston and come to Baton Rouge," said James.

The Louisiana Sheriff's Association took to the stand, supporting the creation and accessibility of the database. "It is a step in the right direction for all law enforcement," said Mike Ranatza, executive director of the organization.

Jackson's bill would also close a loophole that currently allows officers to avoid required certification. As it stands, officers only need to be certified after being on the job for a year. That allows cops to hop from agency to agency, leaving without ever being reviewed or tested.

Under the bill, if the officer bounces before the one-year mark, they would need to receive training immediately after arriving at the new job.

Another bill would allow officers to lose their certification after certain disciplinary actions.

One of James' more controversial bills – cutting off leave pay for officers under investigation for deadly shootings after 60 days – was amended. The bill, which was also sent to the floor without objection, no longer includes a cap on leave pay.

If the full House approves the measures, they then head to the Senate.

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