BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Now that 22 men and women have been chosen to take on the role of community police ambassadors in Baton Rouge, many are wondering where exactly the program will lead.
"I was very surprised when I got that phone call," said Jasmine Pogue.
While Pogue is excited about the new opportunity, she realizes the intense amount of pressure on the group to do what some are skeptical can be done: improve relationships between police and the public.
"There are so many people who have tried for so long and I think they're tired and they're hopeless," said Pogue. "What I hope is that I can bring that hope or create that where it doesn't exist."
Creating hope comes with a huge commitment. Starting next month, she and her fellow ambassadors will start a rigorous six to eight week training process through the District Attorney's Office where they will work closely with each other to chart their course and arm themselves with the tools they'll need to succeed. Once the training is over, each of the ambassadors has signed up to serve for two years.
"It's two nights a week and like two hours for each session and then the real work, so I'm going to be busy for a while," Pogue added.
Pogue says while strenuous, the work is vital to moving past what happened last summer, which is the very reason why the group launched in the first place.
Mary Jane Marcantel, who was also chosen to serve, hopes the group will jump start the lines of communication between officers and members of the community. Rather than a watchdog group, she thinks the primary role will be to add clarity to the conversation while also dispelling any rumors when certain situations arise. "It's hugely important," said Marcantel. "It's educating the public on who can do what, how, when, and where. That's what this is about."
Marcantel believes the best path to get there is by starting with a focus on transparency. "They need to understand what's going on. If a policeman has made a misstep, it's got to be dealt with right away," said Marcantel. "That's how it's going to start to get the communication back going where everybody believes everybody."
Marcantel says it's equally important that positive actions by area law enforcement should be highlighted as well. In order to get to a better place, she says there must be accountability on both sides.
While building trust is the main goal, Marcantel says it will take more than just the 22 people chosen to lead the charge. She believes it will require a conscious effort by the entire community to be successful. "It's going to take everyone coming together with what asset they bring to the table to accomplish what needs to be accomplished," she added.
The community police ambassador program is expected to fully launch next year. Both Marcantel and Pogue say they are optimistic about the program's future.
The 22 people selected as police ambassadors are:
- Melvin Joseph Bazile
- Ashley Bennett
- Pat Butler
- Rose Carey
- Faye Collins
- Chrislyn J. Compton
- Liz Core
- Marcus Doty
- Glenda Foster
- Callista Hutchins
- Levert Kemp
- Patricia Legrand
- Mary Jane Marcantel
- Pat McCallaster-Leduff
- Dmitrius McGruder
- Gary Meise
- Peter Mingo
- Jasmine S. Pogue
- Tonya Robertson
- Marsha L. Scott
- Michael Thomas
- W.T. Winnfield