The president of the Baton Rouge Union of Police said Monday that Chief Dewayne White’s public comments that racial profiling exists in the Police Department were unfair and inaccurate.
White, speaking on radio station WJBO on Wednesday, said he has some officers so accustomed to dealing with criminals who are black that it “becomes ingrained … that most people (the officers) come across with that color of skin are probably criminals.”
White also said while 90 percent of his force exercises professionalism in their duties, 10 percent of his officers “want to do things their own way.”
The president of Baton Rouge Union of Police Local 237, Chris Stewart, responded to the comments Monday on the “Baton Rouge’s Morning News with Clay Young and Kevin Meeks” show, the same WJBO radio program on which White spoke.
Stewart said afterward that he went on the show to tell the public the chief’s comments were not true, and to emphasize Baton Rouge officers are held accountable daily to ensure professionalism.
Stewart said many officers perceived White was suggesting 10 percent of the force has problems with racial profiling.
“There has been an outcry from our membership,” Stewart said. “They’re very upset. We disagree 100 percent with what he said.”
White was not available late Monday for comment.
Stewart said the Police Department is a nationally accredited, flagship department, and “to paint us in any other light is offensive.”
“We’re a model department,” Stewart said.
“If there is a problem, if he has true concerns or accusations of racially motivated behavior, without question, he has our support to launch a full investigation of anyone who has violated policies or laws. That’s not tolerated.”
Stewart said he does not know what information White used to form his perception.
Stewart also said he would like to meet with White to discuss his concerns and immediately address any issues.
The public implications of racial profiling are damaging to officers’ credibility, Stewart said, and could cause problems if residents think they are being treated unfairly based on skin color.
White also said on the show that many of the city’s black residents do not trust the Police Department, a belief he formed from attending numerous inner-city churches and Metro Council district meetings.
“When the question is raised, with an African-American congregation or a constituency, whether they trust the Police Department, no one raises their hand,” White said. “That, in itself, is indicative of a problem, and we have got to win the trust. We have got to win the trust of that community.”
Stewart said there is a “disconnect” between police and many residents in high-crime neighborhoods.
“We’re in these neighborhoods all the time, and they’re afraid to talk to us,” he said. “They’re scared to help in investigations. We need to let them know that they can trust us.”
Stewart said this public disagreement has not created animosity toward the chief from officers, but they were disappointed in the comments.
“It’s not personal,” he said. “I like him as a person, and as a chief, he has done some good things. I’d just like to see some communication, some dialogue — mend the fence, we’re all about that.”