Now in his second month on the job, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul has pledged his commitment to improving relations between police officers and the people they serve in what he described as a "difficult moment in policing."
Speaking at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club lunch Wednesday, Paul acknowledged recent tragic events that "have painted police in a bad light nationally" but said he plans to use the current landscape as a platform to improve the situation in Baton Rouge.
He pointed out that parts of the community operating under an "unfair view of law enforcement" are typically those areas where the most violent crime occurs.
Citing the 2017 homicide rate, which was the highest ever recorded for East Baton Rouge Parish, Paul said authorities need the public's help in solving past crimes and preventing future ones. Only 47 percent of the 2017 Baton Rouge homicide cases have been solved.
Reducing crime in Baton Rouge is not simply a policing problem, Paul said.
"Crime is a socioeconomic issue," he said. "Crime is bigger than the police department. … We all play a role."
While presenting his plans for changes within the department, such as increased transparency, accountability and morale, Paul also called for public support. He asked members of his audience to think more deeply about what it means to be a police officer and what challenges come with the job, listing the wide array of calls an officer could receive on any given day — from traffic accidents to suspicious persons to shootings — that require wearing many different hats.
"As we move forward, we will be professional at all times, even when provoked," Paul said. "As we strive to be a more professional organization, we are asking the community — the people that we serve — to show our police officers the respect their positions deserve."