Louisiana Governor picks new state police chief as agency grapples with controversies

Lamar Davis, a Baton Rouge native, has been with the department for 22 years.

By: - October 30, 2020 4:33 pm
Lamar Davis

Col. Lamar Davis (Photo provided by Louisiana State Police)

Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed a new Louisiana State Police superintendent Friday just a few hours before another round of allegations of racism within state trooper ranks surfaced.

Captain Lamar Davis, who is Black, will succeed retiring Col. Kevin Reeves, who is White. Davis is a Baton Rouge native who previously worked on highway patrol, gaming enforcement, criminal intelligence and legislative matters for the agency. He joined the state police, Louisiana’s preeminent law enforcement agency, in 1998.

“My administration will be built on trust externally and internally,” Davis said in a written statement. “I look forward to working daily on behalf of the men and women of the Department of Public Safety and the Louisiana State Police to ensure the safety of the citizens we serve.”

Davis previously served in the U.S. Army and Louisiana National Guard. Before joining state police, he worked as an East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy and correctional officer in the state prison system. He was unavailable for an interview Friday because he is in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19, said Lt. Nick Manale, a state police spokesman.

Hours after Davis’ appointment was made public, the Associated Press published an investigation into state police communications that showed at least a dozen incidents wherein officers forwarded racist emails from their work accounts and gave their colleagues racist nicknames.

It’s not clear how staff members were disciplined for such behavior — and it’s the only the latest in a string of racist allegations that have come up over the last few months. 

Edwards has praised Reeves and said he was not forced out of his position, but Black state lawmakers — who are typically allies of the Democratic governor — were growing increasingly disgruntled with the agency’s leadership.

Reeves hastily announced he would be stepping down just a few days ago amidst questions over the death of a Black man in state policy custody in North Louisiana. Federal officials launched a civil rights investigation into the death of Ronald Greene, who was involved in a car chase with troopers near Monroe in 2019.

State police initially said Greene died when his vehicle crashed into a tree, the Associated Press reported, but now admit there was a struggle between officers and Green following that accident. Green’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit and one of the family’s attorneys said that body camera footage taken from the scene of Greene’s crash shows troopers beating and choking Green. 

The Associated Press has also heard an audio clip of a state trooper who appears to admit to beating up Green. State police have declined to comment further or release that body camera footage to the public.

In a separate incident, Reeves also publicly apologized last month for not punishing a state trooper who used a racial slur in 2017. The agency has also been criticized for not diversifying its ranks and has dealt with cheating and hazing scandals at the state police academy while Reeves was in charge.

Reeves’ son, who is a state trooper, was involved in a car crash that killed a teenager and child earlier this month.The son was only able to work as a state trooper under his father because Reeves sought an exemption from state nepotism laws in the Louisiana Legislature.

Still, getting a completely clean state for the state police is difficult. Any time the agency changes leadership, it has a fairly limited pool of candidates. State law only permits a person already working within the department to become superintendent. No national candidates — or even candidates from other law enforcement agencies within Louisiana — can be considered. 

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.