BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One by one, four of the eight remaining candidates vying to become the next Baton Rouge Police Chief were put to the test Thursday night.
Each one had an hour to respond to 15 questions, which ranged from community policing to specifics on training for officers, but one part of the process is now raising concern.
The interviews were streamed online, which means the remaining candidates now essentially have a study guide and two weeks to practice their answers. The committee is now working to ensure the rest of the process will be fair.
Under open meetings law, candidates are required to be asked the same questions and follow the same guidelines. That's the advice offered to the group by the Parish Attorney's Office. One committee member raised concerns about the issue during the public comment portion of the process Thursday and at the time, a representative with the Parish Attorney's Office was not exactly sure.
The committee member asked if it would be fine for the group to ask the remaining candidates different questions. "To me, no, but in litigation, I don't know," said Marston Fowler with the Parish Attorney's Office. "That's the problem."
It's a problem in the process the mayor and Parish Attorney's Office are already working to address according to Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel. "They were working on that this afternoon when I talked to them," said Gissel.
One possible fix is to simply ask the next four candidates different questions from the original pool collected by the committee, but Gissel says there is also another option. "One decision was that we allow all the candidates to come back and do a five minute wrap up and that way they can address the committee again," said Gissel.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has long said she wants the process to be transparent, allowing the public complete access as decisions are made. State Representative Ted James serves on the committee and calls the move groundbreaking. "You've never seen this before and I applaud the mayor for doing this out in the open because she did not have to do this," said James.
With something new though, he admits there are challenges. "This is uncharted territory and when you're doing things for the first time, of course there are a lot of things that we're going to learn and that we could have done quite differently," added James.
Whatever the group decides will ultimately help shape which five names are recommended to the mayor, therefore, it's important that each one get a fair shot.
The remaining candidates will be interviewed on Thursday, November 30 with a public comment opportunity on December 7. The mayor has said she plans to make a decision on the position by the end of the year.