A veteran of State Police, Kevin Reeves, is the new superintendent. We congratulate him after decades of service, because it is a special position for a career public servant who started as a motorcycle trooper in Baton Rouge in 1990.
But he's got a big job ahead.
The longest-serving superintendent, Mike Edmonson, stepped down as the agency was wracked with scandals about lavish spending on expense accounts, including a legendary cross-country trip to a California police convention.
The Advocate reported in February that four troopers drove across the country to the San Diego conference by a circuitous route that included overnight stays at Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Three of those troopers charged overtime for the trip, but according to Edmonson, they were ordered to pay it back after the scandal became public.
The records show at least seven of the same troopers who spent the week in San Diego last year also attended the association's 2014 conference in Orlando, Florida, a repeat guest list that critics said underscores the cliquish culture Edmonson cultivated during his nine-year tenure as superintendent.
Two of those troopers charged taxpayers for 25 hours of overtime apiece while attending the Orlando conference, the documents show, a practice forbidden by State Police in the wake of the Las Vegas scandal. Outside auditors continue to look at agency records.
Cliques in State Police are hardly unknown in the past. By law, for example, a superintendent has to come from LSP ranks. What awaits Reeves is the challenge of changing a culture that has caused problems for his boss, Gov. John Bel Edwards.
On Reeves' side is a governor with a generations-long background in law enforcement in Tangipahoa Parish. He is also seen as a law enforcement leader during the tough weeks and months after the assassination of three officers in Baton Rouge last July.
Surely, though, Edwards is surely seeking a change that will get State Police out of headlines for the wrong reasons. State Police are vital to Louisiana on more than just highway patrols; they have just lately helped to confront a crime wave in New Orleans, stepped in to investigate officer-involved shootings for local police forces, rescued people during historic flooding. Reeves' agency is important to our people.
Without specifically mentioning the recent problems, Reeves committed himself to accountability that "begins with me and extends to every employee in the department."
"We know we have some challenges ahead but we will face these challenges together and be stronger because of them," Reeves said. "The public demands nothing less."
As it should, but togetherness is less of a problem than changing an internal culture of rewards — lavish convention accommodations, for example, for those in favor. Change requires a commitment that extends beyond patching up vacation reimbursement policies.