There are now five candidates left in the running to become the next Baton Rouge police chief.
The committee organized by Mayor-President Sharon West Broome removed two applicants from the pool on Thursday night.
That 14-person committee publicly interviewed seven candidates over the past few weeks and voted on the top five, who will now interview with Broome, who has said she will pick a new chief by the end of the year.
The five finalists are Baton Rouge Police officers Myron Daniels, Darryl Honoré and Robert McGarner, Louisiana State Police trooper Murphy Paul Jr., and former Baton Rouge police officer Ronald Stevens.
Eliminated on Thursday were University of Louisiana at Monroe Police Department officer Jeremy Kent and Baton Rouge Police Department officer Sharon Douglas.
About half of the 40 people in the audience stood up to give input or ask general questions about the candidates and the selection process. Topics mentioned included community policing, police force diversity, pay for officers, and use of excessive force.
Members of various community groups participated, including groups such as Progressive Social Network and Together Baton Rouge. Together Baton Rouge handed out a packet with their top seven priorities for the department.
Gary Meise, a Together Baton Rouge member, said police force diversity and pay need to be addressed. Then, he recounted his own recent experience with a Baton Rouge police officer.
Meise was previously homeless and spent his time drinking outside a public library, he said. About 16 months ago, a police officer took him to a shelter, which started his road to sobriety.
"I know that police officers in this city love and care for the people in this city because I know that that happened with me, so we want to see this happen for the rest of the city," Meise said.
After the public comments, the candidates each had five minutes to give statements.
Daniels said his top priorities would be to reduce crime, especially domestic violence, and to address the department’s consent decree covering diversity on the force. He said he has a written plan of strategies to accomplish these goals.
Daniels also touted his background in law enforcement and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern University.
“I didn’t wake up six months ago and decide that Baton Rouge was my priority,” Daniels said. “It’s been my goal, my focus for about two decades and I’ve done everything that I can and worked my way up through the ranks to establish myself as a leader within this department as well as this community.”
Honoré said the limited number of candidates for the police chief position speaks to his greatest concern regarding the department.
“The Baton Rouge Police Department should have had 100, if not more, internal officers applying for this position,” Honoré said. “Someone with the desire to lead us into a new realm, but we have not had that.”
Honoré also spoke about his experience, working on the streets for 16 of his 22 years with the department, and how as chief he would continue fostering relationships in the community.
McGarner said his top priorities would be to hire two additional deputy chiefs, bringing the number to three, and to focus on community policing. He included a large portion of his BRPD personnel file in his more than 120-page application, including multiple awards and letters of commendation.
“I earned every last one of them,” McGarner said of the awards. “And during the time of earning them, I made all kinds of relationships with people in the community because for me to be able to do my job better, I've got to have a relationship with the people in the community.”
McGarner used that field experience to support his plan to mandate that every officer make at least one non-service contact every week in an effort to get out of their patrol units and build relationships.
He added that if he's named chief, he would immediately call state Attorney General Jeff Landry to catch up on the investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Alton Sterling last summer. McGarner said he was not part of previous meetings and has not seen all the footage, so he would not want to be behind on the situation.
Paul said that when he applied for the chief job, he didn’t expect the amount of transparency there has been in the process, but he appreciates it and called it refreshing. Paul urged the committee to look closely at leadership styles.
“The first thing I did (after my interview) is I pulled out a pad and I began to take notes about things I could have done better,” Paul said. “There were just some things so you could see the type of leadership and how dedicated I am to learning my craft and being better at everything that I do. That’s the leadership that I would bring to the table.”
Stevens told the committee he would bring leadership, experience and fear of God to the job. He said he developed his leadership skills from both his time in the military and his previous experience overseeing one-third of the Baton Rouge Police Department as the head of operational services.
“I can assure you that if I’m the one appointed police chief in the city of Baton Rouge, I can go in day one making decisions and making a change,” Stevens said. “We don’t have time to wait. We’ve waited too long already.”