A dialogue on race and policing in Baton Rouge has led to recommendations that Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome set up a council to work with the city’s police chief, launch a more extensive community policing program and establish  a new policy for law enforcement interactions — all aimed at bettering relationship between minority residents and officers.

The proposals were the culmination of a series of discussions that began in June and included input from local law enforcement leaders, social justice activists and academics. A joint effort of the national non-profit Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and local nonprofit Dialogue on Race Louisiana, the series discussed how improve the relationship between police and minority residents, ultimately to improve public safety.

“Dialogue participants strongly believe the lack of transparency between law enforcement and the community cultivates mistrust and suspicion,” wrote Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, in her letter to Broome. “When the media reports information that law enforcement agencies have not communicated to the public, the barrier between the two parties becomes more substantial.”

A spokeswoman for Broome's office said that they had received the letter, plan to review the recommendations and respond in the coming week.

The letter said the participants, which included members of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and Baton Rouge Police Department, decided that a citizen council working with BRPD Chief Murphy Paul would improve communication between the department and residents.

Clarke also wrote that the demeanor of officers during citizen engagements was a clear grievance from dialogue participants. They hope to address this through a mandated Procedural Justice Engagement Policy, which would standardize procedures like commands and officer presence, aimed at increasing police legitimacy.

Finally, the group wants the parish to establish a "Community Policing Plus" program, to create local liaisons from churches, city offices, and social service agencies to connect with the officers who patrol their places of work, as well as connections in neighborhoods they patrol.

"Law enforcement cannot effectively promote safety without the trust and cooperation of the communities they serve," Clarke wrote. "Improving the relationship between police and communities of color is of paramount concern for the City."


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.