BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted unanimously Wednesday, May 8 to approve an amendment to an existing law to strengthen penalties for drivers who cut into an officer-led procession.
The change to that law should take effect in the next 30 days and it comes just months after a fatal wreck on Tiger Bend Road that claimed the life of BRPD Corporal Shane Totty back in February.
That’s just one of several wrecks in recent years in which an officer was either killed or severely hurt during an escort. The item approved by council members adds more teeth to an existing law. Before, drivers who violated the law were only issued a ticket, but now, they could be slapped with a fine of up to $1,000 or be required to serve up to 250 hours of community service. Both the attorney for one of the injured officers and Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul call it a step in the right direction.
“It was just time to amend it, to strengthen it, and to just get public awareness out that they cannot cut into processions,” said attorney, Shannon Hultberg, who represents BRPD Officer Jared Neyland.
“We lost one of our officers. We also had another one of our officers shortly thereafter that was involved in an accident, so we think any changes that we can make in our policy and any education campaign that can educate the public, that can prevent our officers from getting hurt,” added Chief Paul.
Chief Paul says one of the policy changes they are looking at is to make it mandatory to have two officers for every ten cars in a procession. He believes that will increase safety by cutting back on the expectation of each officer during those routes. The chief says law enforcement leaders across the parish are currently working to come up with a general set of procedures across the board. They plan to roll out those changes soon.