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Search Underway for Baton Rouge's Next Police Chief: First Round of Interviews Completed

BATON ROUGE, La. - The pursuit of Baton Rouge's next police chief reached a significant milestone as the Police Chief Review Committee, composed of seven members and three alternates, wrapped up the initial round of interviews with five internal candidates from the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Community Engagement Takes Center Stage

During these interviews, the committee explored a range of critical issues, emphasizing strategies to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community. Lieutenant Brian Ballard, one of the candidates, stressed the importance of community engagement. He proposed, "The mere presence of a uniformed police officer in a marked police car, not just for traffic violations but for conversations with residents, can foster open dialogue. Getting to know the people in the neighborhood allows us to identify their concerns and work collaboratively to address them."

Addressing Controversies and Misconduct Allegations

Discussions also probed matters surrounding the controversial "Brave Cave" and misconduct allegations within the BRPD. The committee sought to understand how the candidates would handle such situations and prevent their recurrence. Deputy Chief Myron Daniels offered insights: "We will conduct a comprehensive audit of procedures to identify and rectify systemic issues. This includes taking appropriate corrective actions and ensuring the facility is no longer used."

Rebuilding Public Trust

Maintaining public trust amid the department's ongoing internal and external investigations emerged as a crucial concern. Captain Kevin Heinz emphasized the importance of community input, stating, "In recent years, it has become abundantly clear that the public has a substantial influence on policing. We must actively engage with the community, establish open lines of communication, and listen to their concerns to improve trust."

Recruitment and Retention Challenges

Recruitment and retention of police personnel were also subjects of inquiry. Sergeant Sharon Douglas highlighted the need to reinvigorate the workplace culture, stating, "While we have offered incentives and raises, it's evident that people are motivated by factors beyond monetary compensation. We must rebuild the climate and culture within the Baton Rouge Police Department to make it an attractive workplace."

Fighting Crime: Reinstating the Narcotics Division

The candidates were further questioned on strategies to reduce crime. Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Manning advocated reinstating the BRPD's Narcotics Division, which had been disbanded due to recent controversies. Manning explained, "Uniformed officers handle all calls, including drug-related cases. We must reestablish a narcotics division from the ground up, tailoring it to meet our specific needs."

Next Steps

The committee will conduct a second round of interviews on Thursday, Oct. 26, with the following candidates: Thomas Glover, Captain Michael McCarley, Lieutenant L’Jean McKneely Jr., Commander Thomas Morse, Jr., and Captain Chris Polito.

Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome has charged the committee with concluding interviews and submitting five recommendations for the new police chief by Nov. 1. The mayor will make the final appointment from this pool of candidates. The search for Baton Rouge's new police chief is a critical undertaking for the city, as it seeks leadership capable of addressing complex challenges and fostering a stronger connection between the community and law enforcement.

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