Louisiana State Police to hire outside firm to review backlog of body-camera footage

By: - December 6, 2021 7:42 pm
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Louisiana State Police commanders and top brass attend the inaugural meeting of the state Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (WES MULLER/LOUISIANA ILLUMINATOR)

The Louisiana State Police is planning to hire a third-party firm to continue the review of thousands of hours of dashboard and body-camera footage that a seven-member panel of troopers began this summer before being disbanded.

State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis discussed the plan Monday at the inaugural meeting of the state Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight. Davis and most of his top brass attended the meeting to field questions about how the agency handles use-of-force incidents, public complaints and internal investigations.

The Senate committee was created this year after alleged incidents of police brutality and an alleged coverup among state troopers came to light in a series of Associated Press articles. 

Part of Monday’s discussion surrounded an event that brought Davis criticism over the summer — his move to disband a seven-member panel that was set up to review thousands of hours of dashboard and body-camera footage in search of unreported excessive force incidents. Davis disbanded the panel after one of the members leaked some of the findings. 

Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge) asked Davis why he chose to disband the panel.

“You started a seven-member use-of-force review panel and then you stopped it,” Fields said. “For what purpose did you — because I thought that was a great initiative? Because basically you got thousands of videos, and to have seven people to sit there and look at these videos was, I thought, very innovative.” 

Davis said the unauthorized leak compromised the panel’s integrity.

“I found out that some of the information that was being gathered and looked at within that seven-person panel was being released without being authorized,” Davis said. “For me, that broke down the integrity of the entire process.”

Although the panel no longer exists, Davis said, the review of the video footage is still a task he intends to complete. Instead of using his own personnel, he said he wants to outsource the project to a third-party firm that has experience in conducting such reviews. 

Davis said he is researching two firms that conduct similar use-of-force reviews for the U.S. Department of Justice. The companies review the footage, as well as an agency’s policies, practices and training. 

Those firms, Davis said, are staffed with “a good balance” of attorneys and civil rights experts. 

“I think we all want the same thing,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how we get there.”

The agency should have a contract signed with one of the firms before April, after which the review will take 9 to 12 months to complete, Davis said, adding that he intends to make the findings available to the public.

Many of the commanders who attended the committee meeting with Davis Monday  are law enforcement veterans but new to their leadership positions. Davis, whom Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed last year to reform the agency, replaced many of the department heads, bringing much more diversity to his command staff.

“We’re not here because we’re forced to be here,” said Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Chavez Cammon, who was promoted to his role in January. “We’re here because we want to make a difference.”

No members of the public testified Monday, but the committee will meet again on Dec. 13 and invites the public to comment, Chairman Sen. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge) said.

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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 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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