BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Nearly a year after Baton Rouge police fatally shot a black man outside a convenience store, sparking widespread protests, Louisiana lawmakers are considering an increase in training requirements for officers.
The unanimous passage of Rep. Ted James’ bill by a House judiciary committee Thursday came after the Baton Rouge Democrat agreed to strip language from a separate proposal that would have officers under investigation for shooting deaths go unpaid after 60 days.
The full House will consider the training measure, which calls for officers to receive a minimum of 400 hours of basic training and learn more about de-escalation practices, recognizing biases and handling in-custody deaths. Officers would also have to complete at least 20 hours of in-service training each year.
James said the proposals were prompted by the July 5 death of Alton Sterling, who was killed during a struggle with two white officers outside the store where the 37-year-old was selling homemade CDs. The officers had responded to a call that Sterling had threatened someone with a gun. Cellphone video of the deadly encounter quickly spread on social media, prompting protests in Baton Rouge and beyond last summer. The officers are on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“I’m extremely satisfied,” James said after the meeting, noting that the training proposals have already received support from members of law enforcement he has met with. “The training requirements and bias recognition (lessons) are things that the community wants – and now that would be in the law.”
James noted that the Baton Rouge Police Department already meets the proposed 400-hour requirement, but he said putting that minimum into law would be a “huge victory.”
On another bill, James still disagrees with officers being on leave with pay for months, but said it was “enlightening” to hear the perspective of law enforcement officers. To secure passage, he rewrote the measure to no longer mention pay and instead focus on decreasing the number of days an officer has to secure an attorney from 30 to 14 – with some exceptions.
“I learned that there were some constitutional concerns there,” James said, referring to his effort to stop paying officers who are being investigated for fatal shootings. “I just need to dive deeper into civil service rules and see how I can accomplish it. What I found before this session just wasn’t it.”
Earlier in the meeting, the committee also unanimously passed a bill by Democratic Rep. Katrina Jackson that requires all law enforcement agencies to report instances of police misconduct to a statewide database. The full House will also consider a bill from Democratic Rep. Randal Gaines that would allow the Louisiana Peace Officer Standards and Training Council to hold hearings to consider revoking certification for any officer who has been suspended or discharged.
House Bill 277: http://www.legis.la.gov