Top Baton Rouge police officials talk about ongoing department reforms

Top Baton Rouge police officials talk about ongoing department reforms
FILE photo of BRPD Chief Murphy Paul speaking a press conference.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Officials with the Baton Rouge Police Department held a press conference Tuesday, June 9 to discuss ongoing reforms in the department.

Chief Murphy Paul and several other top officials with the law enforcement agency talked about what it will take to build trust and legitimacy in the community.

See the full news conference below.

Tues. June 9: BRPD officials discuss ongoing reforms

Paul said he shares the nation’s outrage over the death of George Floyd. He condemned the actions of the Minnesota police officers involved in Floyd’s death.

He credited Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome for implementing reforms within BRPD when she took office in 2017.

BRPD officials say citizens can now file complaints online by clicking here and they have changed their internal affairs division to be more proactive instead of reactive.

The internal affairs division now starts to investigate the questionable conduct of officers before a formal complaint is filed, officials say.

Investigators with the internal affairs division also review six months of past body cam footage when they launch an investigation into a complaint against an officer.

BRPD implemented the following changes in use of force policies in February of 2017:

  • Officers are required to give a verbal warning, before using deadly force, except where there are exigent circumstances
  • Officers are required to deescalate situations, when possible, before using force. Deescalation strategies include disengagement, area containment, waiting out a subject, summoning reinforcements, calling in specialized units or employing other strategies.
  • Officers will not employ choke holds or strangleholds, except in emergency circumstances where it is immediately necessary to use deadly force and the authorized weapons are inoperable, inaccessible, or otherwise not available
  • Officers are prohibited from discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle unless the vehicle or the persons within the vehicle pose an immediate deadly threat to others
  • Officers will be required to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force and to immediately report when they observe the use of excessive force by another officer

Two other law enforcement agencies, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana State Police, also issued statements about their policing policies Tuesday, June 9.

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH SHERIFF’S OFFICE:

As I stated before, I share in the outrage, frustration and sadness of the treatment and tragic death of George Floyd. I was sickened and heartbroken to see such callous disregard for another human being. I have always said that if you do not have a heart for service, there is no place for you in law enforcement. Unfortunately, such reprehensible behavior undermines the important relationship and trust between law enforcement and the community we serve. Most of us share the same desires for peace, security and equality. Now, more than ever, we must do the work needed to repair and strengthen that relationship and restore trust through respect and compassion. I want to thank those in our community that have peacefully protested. I respect and appreciate your right to be heard. I personally value your voice and your input. As leaders we must humbly listen and committedly learn and grow.

When I took office more than 12 years ago, I was committed to building trust and improving and strengthening relationships with the community we serve. Growing, changing and improving must be an ongoing process. We should never become stagnant or complacent, and we must always listen, adapt and improve. We have grown and improved much at the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office throughout the past 12 years, and we will continue to do so. I wanted to highlight some of the improvements and changes that have been made to better serve our community, and some of the changes that are forthcoming.

Policies:

We have contracted with an independent, third-party company, Lexipol, to evaluate and revise our policies and procedures based on nation-wide best practices related to 21st Century Policing Standards. This is a process we began in 2019, but are working on finalizing now.

As part of these policy revisions, we are working to reinforce in writing what is currently training practice:

  • Deputies are currently trained against the use of any kind of chokehold or neck restraint. We have updated our policy, effective immediately, to prohibit this type of use of force.
  • Deputies are required to use their extensive training in de-escalation practices prior to the use of force. De-escalation can include specialized divisions trained in counseling, negotiations and other tactics; waiting; repositioning; area containment and other strategies.
  • We have a use of force continuum, which only allows deputies to use the least amount of force necessary to render a situation safe for all parties involved.
  • Deputies are required to give verbal warning before using deadly force, except when exigent circumstances could result in a loss of life.
  • Deputies are prohibited from shooting at a moving vehicle, unless the vehicle poses an immediate deadly threat.
  • Deputies are required by policy and by law to intervene to prevent any excessive use of force and immediately report such misuse of force by a fellow deputy.
  • The Sheriff’s Office documents, tracks and evaluates use of force. We have an MOU with Louisiana State Police to investigate deputy-involved shootings. Internally, we have a shooting-review board that also evaluates any discharge of a firearm to ensure that no laws or policies have been violated. All such shootings are additionally reported to the Department of Justice annually.

Diversity:

When comparing our office demographics from 2006 to 2019, diversity at the Sheriff’s Office has increased by more than 69% for all employees since 2006. We have 63% more African American deputies now than we did in 2006. We increased diversity in uniform patrol by more than 158%, special operations by 83% and corrections by 11.6%. I promoted our first black female Captain at EBRSO in 2008, and others since that time. I was honored and humbled by the brotherhood Sisterhood award in 2015, and I’ve gone to great lengths to work toward having a department that is representative of the community in which we serve. All EBRSO employees participate in ongoing mandated diversity training.

To further those efforts to actively recruit diverse applicants, I created a part-time Recruiting Team last year, and we are currently transitioning to a full-time Recruiting Division.

Over the years we have updated and revised our policies to prohibit discrimination of any kind and will continue to do so. These policies not only relate to interagency conduct, but also to community interactions. Targeting, stopping or detaining someone due to their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation is forbidden.

Again, growth and improvement must be an ongoing process. To be successful in keeping our community safe, law enforcement must continue to work to earn and keep the trust and respect of those we serve. I pray that as a community and as a nation we will continue to come together and listen to each other with compassion and treat each other with respect and kindness.

EBR Sheriff Sid Gautreaux

LOUISIANA STATE POLICE

Statement from Colonel Kevin Reeves, State Police Superintendent:

I have been asked by family, friends, colleagues and members of the community to share my thoughts in response to the tragic death of George Floyd. Generally speaking, the Louisiana State Police has avoided commenting on the police actions by other agencies. That job, historically, has been left to the court system. However, the last two weeks have demonstrated that these are different times which require us to respond differently.

Let me be clear, police brutality in any form undermines the good work in public service and constitutional policing performed by the Louisiana State Police, along with our law enforcement professionals across our state and our country. Incidents of police brutality, such as George Floyd, shock the conscience and questions the basic humanity of those who violate our solemn oath. This misconduct undermines the public trust in law enforcement and chips away at the very foundation of public safety and service.

The Louisiana State Police takes pride in our processes, our training and the work of our Troopers. We are committed to recruiting, training and retaining the most professional law enforcement officers in the state. This effort includes:

  • A hiring process that includes an extensive background check, polygraph and psychological evaluation
  • Ongoing deescalation training
  • Extensive use of force training including classroom and practical application
  • Effective communication
  • Professionalism and leadership
  • Legal requirements for law enforcement
  • Community engagement and education
  • Racial profiling training
  • Early Identification System (EIS) to identify and act upon concerns regarding employee conduct
  • Disciplinary Review Committee to review all administrative cases and determine appropriate discipline

In the wake of the reprehensible death of George Floyd, the Louisiana State Police, working with our parish and local public safety partners, have been actively assessing protests across the state to ensure the safety of the protesters, the public and property. These protests have spanned from St. Bernard to Shreveport, from Monroe to Lake Charles and many points in between. The crowd numbers have ranged from a dozen to thousands. Louisiana citizens are showing up in mass to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully protest and ensure that their voices are heard and that public officials are listening. We not only support these efforts; we are committed to safely facilitating these efforts. These protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful and I am very proud and appreciative of our citizens. There is no place for violence, destruction of property or obstructing a major highway or interstate that threatens the safety of the protesters or the motoring public. We believe in an open dialogue with organizers and participants to ensure that we are all on the same page and moving in the right direction together.

Police brutality will never be tolerated by the Louisiana State Police and we hold ourselves accountable for violations of the public trust. We will listen to and address the concerns of the people we serve.

I remain grateful for the sacrifices of and confident in the services provided by the State Troopers, DPS Police Officers and LSP Investigators with whom I serve.

Click here to report a typo.

Copyright 2020 WAFB. All rights reserved.