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Policing Under Pressure

Law enforcement in Louisiana’s two largest cities is under pressure – in New Orleans, it’s pressure from the top down, while in Baton Rouge it’s coming from the bottom up.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry has gone on the warpath against crime in New Orleans.

“If we are to bring an end to the smear of crime, fraud and corruption that affects quality of life, our law enforcement officers and agencies must work together,” he said last fall, when announcing he would deploy some of his office’s investigators to assist with arrests.

Landry is also running a Twitter hashtag campaign to #MakeNewOrleansSafeAgain. And just this week he made a public offer to get the Trump administration to lift a federal consent decree which stops NOPD cops from asking about immigration status.

“It basically prohibits our law enforcement agents from taking potentially dangerous criminals off of our streets,” Landry maintains.

Meanwhile, in the capital city, Together Baton Rouge – a cross-cultural interfaith advocacy group -- released a study this week. It shows drug possession enforcement is disproportionately higher in poorer black neighborhoods.

“There’s not evidence of intentional, willful discrimination,” said Together Baton Rouge executive director Broderick Bagert. “But this is institutional.”

The group has been working on a community policing agenda, and several TBR members have been serving on the new mayor’s citizen advisory committees.

“Our overall goal is to elevate community policing – ot just as a concept, but as an integral part of the fabric of our police department,” Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said Thursday, as she announced changes to official policing policy.

The new rules include requiring cops to minimize use of force, as well as requiring officers to intervene to prevent a fellow officer from using excessive force and to report any excessive use of force they observe from a fellow officer.

“Today is about policy changes that are very important for our community, as we work to close the gap between law enforcement and the citizens of our community.”

Baton Rouge is still awaiting the U.S. Justice Department report on last summer’s shooting of Alton Sterling, whose death prompted protests and later led to the killings of two Baton Rouge officers and one sheriff’s deputy.