Several police reforms expected despite failure of qualified immunity bill

Lawmakers passed 3 bills proposed by police reform task force

By: - June 11, 2021 5:12 pm
Gov. Edwards downplays cover-up allegations in Ronald Greene case

McKinley Bates speaks about his experience with police during a rally to support Ronald Greene’s family at the State Capitol on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

With the 2021 Regular Legislative Session finished, Louisiana might soon benefit from several police reform bills that lawmakers passed this year even though Republican Senators killed the most critical piece of legislation proposed by the police reform task force — a bill that would have limited qualified immunity.

House Bill 609, sponsored by Rep. Edmond Jordan (D-Baton Rouge), was a primary goal for the Legislative Black Caucus. It would have limited law enforcement’s use of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that renders officers virtually immune to civil lawsuits when they break certain laws or violate a citizen’s rights. 

The legislation was the product of nearly a year of work by the legislature’s Police Training, Screening and De-escalation Task Force, a bipartisan panel of 25 people, including legislators and many different experts across multiple fields. Although it passed numerous committees, subcommittees, and the entire 105-member House, the bill died late in the session in a Senate committee.

In a press release Thursday, Black Caucus leaders said they intend to continue their push for police reform and plan to reintroduce the qualified immunity legislation next year. 

Here’s a roundup of the police reform measures that did pass and have been sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards for consideration:

House Bill 430, sponsored by Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge), would change parts of the officer bill of rights with regards to internal investigations. Among the proposed changes, the bill would shorten from 30 days to 14 days the time period for an officer under investigation to obtain an attorney, and it would extend the length of time allowed to complete internal investigations to 75 days. It would also require all sustained complaints — that is those made against an officer that are supported by evidence — to remain in the officer’s personnel file for at least 10 years.

Senate Bill 34, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), would prohibit chokeholds and no-knock warrants and mandate policies for dashboard and body-worn cameras. According to the bill, chokeholds would only be allowed “when the officer reasonably believes he or another person is at risk of great bodily harm or when deadly force is authorized.”

House Bill 129, sponsored by Rep. Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville), would establish requirements related to police officer training, recruitment and investigations. The bill would:

  • Require the Council on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) and all governmental entities that employ a peace officer to develop and implement certain policies and procedures  to increase the recruitment of minority candidates.
  • Require any governmental entity that employs a peace officer to implement an in-service anti-bias training program, as administered by P.O.S.T., in order to be eligible to receive any state grants administered or procured by the La. Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice.
  • Require P.O.S.T. to develop and implement policies and procedures to suspend or revoke P.O.S.T. certification for misconduct committed by a peace officer.
  • Require P.O.S.T. to develop and implement curriculum to provide instruction for law enforcement personnel on procedural justice and the duty to intervene when witnessing any misconduct by fellow officers.
  • Require that law enforcement agencies be certified by P.O.S.T. in order to investigate officer-involved shootings that result in death or great bodily harm.

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Wes Muller
Wes Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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