Newly sworn-in Police Chief Dewayne White said Thursday evening he wants to continue “trimming fat” in the Police Department by taking ranked officers out of headquarters and putting them in the field.
White said his department is “top heavy” and he has already moved four lieutenants back into the field to provide supervision to officers.
“I have looked at the operations section of the headquarters and I’ve actually seen that there was a lot of rank that was doing jobs that could be merged under one supervisor,” White said.
White said he has formed a committee to figure out how to “put more boots on the ground.”
White made the comments at a Metro Council District 6 community meeting at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church hosted by Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis.
It was White’s first meeting with Baton Rouge residents after he said at his introductory news conference Friday that he wants the Police Department to form a better relationship with its constituents.
White reiterated his commitment to the community Thursday by saying he wants his officers to go door-to-door and meet Baton Rouge residents.
White said he plans to go door-to-door himself.
“I think that that’s a bridge that widened since my departure in 1990 from the Baton Rouge Police Department,” White said. “It’s my intent to regain the public trust through more community-oriented policing.”
White said forums like the one he attended Thursday are “very necessary” to receive feedback from residents about ways to solve crime.
Collins-Lewis said she agreed with what White said about community-oriented policing.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be enough police officers for us to be able to solve the crime without citizen involvement,” Collins-Lewis said.
Dorothy Boyd, an Oak Crest subdivision resident who attended the meeting Thursday, said she thinks White’s ideas of community involvement sound “very promising.
“A lot of times, people get elected, get hired, and they take it passively,” Boyd said. “They don’t give it higher priorities on their agenda.”
Boyd said she would like to see police officers talking to residents at regular meetings to give them a place to “think before they act.”
White said he will also address vacancies in the department with Mayor-President Kip Holden in the coming weeks.
White said the department has about 70 vacancies that he’d like to fill sooner rather than later because he sees a potential shortage from a large number of officers with a rank of captain or above retiring in the next two years.
“I want to fill all 70 vacancies, if that’s possible,” White said. “…What we need to do is start now to get ahead of the curve.”