Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday, June 13, 2022, that Louisiana State Police is short about 300 troopers from ideal staffing levels. (Raymond Clark images)
State lawmakers questioned Friday why Louisiana State Police is under the umbrella of the Department of Corrections and Public Safety, whose cabinet-level secretary has no supervisory or budget control over the law enforcement agency.
The Senate Committee on State Police Oversight is expected to make reform recommendations for troopers and their leadership. One change discussed Friday involved splitting the role of deputy public safety secretary and state police superintendent. The top state trooper, Col. Lamar Davis, currently holds both roles and told senators he doesn’t think it’s necessary to put a civilian in charge of his agency.
The committee was created in response to the May 2019 death of Ronald Greene in State Police custody after a car chase. A separate House committee is investigating allegations of a coverup involving troopers, their chain of command and Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Senate panel has been asked to come up with recommendations to improve State Police accountability.
Davis argued that promotion from within the ranks of State Police is a reason why they are able to retain troopers. He said the department follows the best practices of the military, which also elevates its leadership from the lower ranks. While a civilian leader could offer outside knowledge and perspective, Davis said troopers are best equipped to handle leadership roles in times of emergency and through everyday law enforcement scenarios.
As for issues Greene’s death has unearthed, Davis said in-house administration is best suited to address any problems along with the lack of racial equity in the department.
“This agency has been predominantly white male. There’s no secret about it,” Davis said. “But we need to make change, and in order to make change we have to understand the agency.”
Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc confirmed that he has no budgetary or managerial authority over State Police when asked by lawmakers. The LSP superintendent takes part in the governor’s cabinet meetings and does not answer to the secretary, who technically outranks him, he said.
LeBlanc said his supervisory duties involving State Police are limited to approving time off and signing payroll.
“We don’t feel it’s a fit. We need to seperate” State Police from the Department of Corrections, LeBlanc said.
The Louisiana Constitution limits the ability to turn State Police into its own free-standing agency. The state charter limits the number of state departments to 20, a ceiling that was reached in 1984 when the Department of Environmental Quality was separated from Natural Resources.
The constitution would have to be amended to split State Police from Corrections and Public Safety, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature then approval from a majority of statewide voters. Lawmakers could on their own make the deputy public safety secretary’s role a civilian-held job with authority over the LSP superintendent.
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