New police reforms coming to Louisiana

Governor signs all police reform bills into law

By: - July 7, 2021 3:47 pm

A scene in Minnesota after George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police and residents erupted in anger. Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests across the country and renewed calls for police reform. (Photo by Tony Webster/Minnesota Reformer.)

Law enforcement agencies in Louisiana will soon implement several police reforms Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law after the 2021 regular session. However, during that same session, the Louisiana Legislature killed the most significant piece of legislation proposed by the Legislature’s police reform task force: a bill that would have limited qualified immunity.

That legislation, House Bill 609 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 bill was the product of nearly a year of work by the Legislature’s Police Training, Screening and De-escalation Task Force, a bipartisan panel that included dozens of experts across multiple fields. Although it passed numerous committees, subcommittees, and the Louisiana House, the bill died late in the session in the Senate Judiciary B Committee.

Black Caucus leaders said they intend to continue their push for police reform and plan to reintroduce the legislation next year. 

Here’s a roundup of the police reform measures that lawmakers did pass and were signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards. They will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

House Bill 129, sponsored by Rep. Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville) and now referred to as Act 418, gives new powers to and establishes mandates for the Council on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.), which establishes training curriculum and certifies all law enforcement officers in the state. 

  • Gives the P.O.S.T. council the power to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification and to develop and implement policies to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification for misconduct.
  • Requires 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 Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice.
  • Requires the P.O.S.T. council and all governmental entities that employ a peace officer to implement certain policies and procedures to increase the recruitment of minority candidates.
  • Requires the P.O.S.T. council to provide training for law enforcement personnel on the duty to intervene when witnessing any misconduct by fellow officers.
  • Requires 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, and there shall be within those agencies at least three certified officer-involved shooting investigators who have completed all necessary coursework and training.

House Bill 430, sponsored by Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) and now referred to as Act 451, changes parts of the so-called “officer’s bill of rights” with regards to internal investigations. Among the proposed changes, the time allowed for an officer under investigation to obtain an attorney now drops to 14 days instead of 30, and the length of time an agency has to complete an internal investigation now increases from 60 days to 75. It also requires 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) and now referred to as Act 430, prohibits chokeholds and no-knock warrants and mandates policies for dashboard and body-worn cameras. 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.” Agencies are now required to adopt a policy regarding an officer’s activation of body-worn cameras ,and agencies that have vehicles equipped with dashboard cameras are required to use them. No-knock warrants are prohibited unless a judge finds probable cause that the circumstances demand them.

In an email to the Illuminator, P.O.S.T. Council spokesman Bob Wertz said the council’s master instructors had already begun working on developing the new training programs outlined in the legislation. 

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Wesley Muller
Wesley 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 following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and 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, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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