Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday appointed a Baton Rouge native and 25-year veteran of Louisiana State Police to be the new superintendent of the embattled agency.

Effective Friday, the job is now held by Capt. Lamar A. Davis, who is also now deputy secretary of Public Safety Services.

Davis succeeded Col. Kevin Reeves, who announced earlier this week he was retiring amid controversy.

The new superintendent is 50 years old and has an undergraduate degree from Southern University and a master's degree from Southern University in New Orleans. Of his 25 years in State Police, Davis has spent nearly 23 of them as a trooper.

"Capt. Davis has led an exemplary career in law enforcement and has earned the respect of his colleagues," Edwards said in a statement.

"He has accepted this position at a time when our state is facing many challenges, including COVID-19, severe weather and the efforts necessary for recovery and rebuilding," Edwards said. "I'm grateful that he and his family have agreed to serve the people of our great state, and I look forward to working with him."

In the latest sign of controversy swirling around State Police, The Associated Press reported Friday that a review of hundreds of records revealed at least a dozen freshly-unearthed instances over a three-year period in which employees forwarded racist emails on their official accounts, including subject lines like "PROUD TO BE White."

A captain until Friday, Davis is the fourth Black superintendent and was chosen over about 15 higher ranked majors and lieutenant colonels, officials said.

Until Friday, he oversaw the business and technology section of State Police. Davis' previous assignments include highway patrol, criminal investigations, legislation, research and policy.

Before joining State Police, Davis served as a peace officer for the state Department of Public Safety, as an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy, and was a state corrections officer.

"I truly appreciate Gov. Edwards for the opportunity presented with this appointment and I am humbled by his confidence," Davis said, also in a statement.

"I recognize there are challenges ahead and, rest assured, we will be purposeful moving forward."

"My administration will be built on trust, externally and internally."

As deputy secretary of public safety, Davis also will oversee the beleaguered Office of Motor Vehicles, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and the Louisiana Fire Marshal's office.

Davis served four years of active duty in the U.S. Army. Afterward, he became a member of the Louisiana National Army Guard, reaching the rank of Command Sergeant Major – the highest enlisted rank in the Army – before retiring from there in 2008.

Edwards, a former U.S. Army Ranger, cited that military experience during a press conference in Gretna two days after Hurricane Zeta damaged the New Orleans area.

"For me, I'm an Army person," Edwards said. "So, it certainly helped that he was a battalion Command Sergeant Major in the National Guard. He's a tremendously accomplished soldier as well."

Davis is married and the couple have one son.

Serving as Davis' deputy will be Lt. Col. Doug Cain, a veteran officer who is well respected within the agency's ranks and who went through the State Police Academy with Davis.

State Police have been embroiled in several controversies in recent months, including the death of Ronald Greene, a Black man who died in State Police custody in 2019 after a chase in Monroe.

Questions about the circumstances of his death have sparked questions, criticism and protests, with activists accusing State Police of covering up how he died. It is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

The agency has also come under fire for its handling of the investigation of Trayford Pellerin, a Black man killed in Lafayette in August.

State Police investigate cases where officers kill civilians in the line of duty. Critics have said the probe of the Pellerin case needs to be more transparent.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, who is running for Baton Rouge mayor, said Friday she hopes Davis can help lead the healing amid controversy involving State Police. But Marcelle said investigations into recent controversies need to continue despite the departure of Reeves.

"It kind of appeared that they allowed him to resign to keep from dealing with it," Marcelle said of the former superintendent. "I don't think that is going to work. I believe that people are still going to want to know what happened. The truth needs to come out."

Edwards said earlier this week that Reeves was not asked to step down from his post.

The governor said Reeves told him last year that he would be leaving the agency at the end of 2020.

Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, also praised the appointment of Davis. "I think Lamar is going to make an excellent superintendent," Fields said.

He said Davis is respected by colleagues and brings a wide range of experience to the job. "I just think he is going to bring nothing but good to the agency," he said.

State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, who like Marcelle has expressed concerns about State Police issues, said the appointment of Davis may help instill confidence in the agency among members of the Black community.

But James said one of the key questions is whether Davis has the ability to select an inner staff he can trust.

"I am excited by the change, but will save the cheers until I see how the leadership is going to look," he said.

He noted that the leadership of State Police does not mirror state demographics in terms of Black troopers in top posts.

James chairs one of the subcommittees doing an interim study on police practices, which stems from a bill sponsored earlier this year by Fields.

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.