BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards signed three bills into law Friday.
The laws would strengthen community policing standards throughout Louisiana. House Bill (HB) 277 by Rep. Ted James requires additional annual certification training hours for law enforcement officers, HB 473 by Rep. Randal Gaines provides for the revocation of that certification in cases of police misconduct, and HB 481 by Rep. Katrina Jackson expands the guidelines for reporting an officer's work history into a statewide database, including disciplinary actions, resignations, and terminations.
"Building better partnerships between law enforcement and the communities they serve is paramount to having the safer society we all desire," said Gov. Edwards. "These new laws are a proactive approach toward achieving that outcome and helping us better understand and support each other. I appreciate the work that has been done by state lawmakers, law enforcement and citizens across the state. It's a prime example of the progress that can be made when we work toward a common goal. I know that there is more work to be done, but this is an important step in the right direction and something we can all be proud of."
Under HB 277, law enforcement officers are required to successfully complete 400 hours of core curriculum developed by the Council on Peace Officer Standard Training (P.O.S.T) and a minimum of 20 hours of in-service training on an annual basis to maintain their P.O.S.T. certification. The curriculum will be focused on the following areas:
- Bias policing recognition.
- Sudden in-custody death.
- Crisis intervention training, including law enforcement interaction with citizens with mental illness and developmental disabilities.
"These bills are the direct result of the community coming together," said Rep. James. "We listened to the concerns expressed by community leaders and advocates, and in response we developed and adopted policies that we believe will lead to stronger and improved standards and ultimately safer streets for all of our citizens."
HB 473, by Rep. Gaines, mandates that an officer's P.O.S.T. certification be revoked in the case of a criminal conviction and allows the Council to hold revocation hearings for other disciplinary reasons, including if an officer has been terminated in a case involving civil rights violations and all administrative remedies have been exhausted, conviction of a misdemeanor involving domestic abuse battery or a felony, and failure to complete additional training requirements.
"Our police officers play a vital role in our society," said Rep. Gaines. "They ensure public safety and quality of life, which are the most important aspects of our communities. It is important that we promulgate laws, policies and standards that will enable them to effectively perform their duties as peace officers."
Rep. Katrina Jackson's bill, HB 481, broadens the guidelines by which law enforcement agencies are required to use to report to the Louisiana Uniform Law Enforcement Statewide Reporting Database. Those actions now include P.O.S.T certification and de-certifications, disciplinary actions, involuntary terminations, resignations in lieu of termination, and investigations of misconduct. The database must also be electronically accessible to law enforcement agencies across the state. In addition, it requires reserve and part-time officers to also become P.O.S.T. certified.
"After months of hearing testimony about the need for law enforcement reform, we thought it was very important to join the governor, law enforcement officers and the community in bringing about meaningful legislation to address a very serious problem," said Rep. Jackson. "It was very refreshing to have law enforcement at the table, working diligently to promote good relationships between themselves and the citizens we all serve. We cannot let the bad actions of a few officers overshadow the good done by the many who fight to protect and serve us every day."
"In my 10 years of working with the legislature, sheriffs, district attorneys and other law enforcement entities, this year was extremely important," said Fabian Blache, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Police Chiefs. "I commend Reps. Katrina Jackson, Ted James and Randal Gaines for their outreach to the law enforcement community in drafting legislation that provides the transparency the community is seeking from us and yet is fair in allowing those who protect the public to do their jobs unhindered."