Six months ago, as lawmakers pushed for answers from LSU officials amid a sexual assault scandal roiling the flagship campus, several vented frustrations over the lack of an agreement between local law enforcement and LSU to track sexual assaults.

The “memorandum of understanding” was long overdue: the Legislature passed a law in 2015 that required one. LSU officials said in March that they’d drafted it in 2019, but that law enforcement had never signed it.

This summer, the Legislature passed another law requiring the agreement, and LSU and law enforcement officials have drafted and reviewed new versions of it. But it remains unsigned.

“This information is very important,” said State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, during a hearing Tuesday about how universities have changed their policies over sexual assault on campus. “This is one of our hiccups.”

The agreement is meant to help track off-campus sexual misconduct by students, as well as beef up on-campus investigations and trainings.

The problem extends beyond LSU. Both Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College are included in the unsigned memorandum of understanding with the Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office and East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office.

LSU President William Tate IV told the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children on Tuesday that “the institutions have done their part of it and we’re waiting to hear back from our colleagues” in law enforcement.

Winston DeCuir Jr., the university’s general counsel, said LSU drafted the memorandum of understanding over the summer and sent it to law enforcement entities weeks ago. But the new state law does not require it to be completed until Jan. 1.

“It’s hard for us to tell them they have to send it to us right now,” DeCuir said.

A spokesperson for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, however, said that officals there had been in touch with LSU for months about the memorandum of understanding. Spokesperson Casey Rayborn Hicks said LSU sent them a draft in March, and that the Sheriff’s Office had requested some changes.

“EBRPSO did not receive any additional information from LSU as to whether the changes were acceptable,” Hicks said.

Given the delay, she said the Sheriff’s Office moved forward in April with a memorandum of understanding with Baton Rouge Community College, she said. Meanwhile, she said months passed before the Sheriff's Office heard back from LSU.

LSU sent a new version of the agreement to them Sept. 14, but she said it omitted some of the changes requested by the Sheriff’s Office. She said that version is still being circulated among law enforcement agencies.

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A BRPD spokesperson said Tuesday that he would check on the status of the agreement. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said it had been circulating for months.

The draft agreement that LSU sent to the agencies says all parties to it are required to share information “including but not limited to trends regarding power-based violence committed by or against students of an institution.”

It says that law enforcement should notify universities “of any report of power-based violence committed on their campuses by or against students of an institution,” and that authorities should coordinate investigations to ensure any incident is fully probed.

The agreement would also ask universities to stay in touch with law enforcement about Title IX investigations, and request that they “promote proper methods of preservation of evidence.”

Power-based violence can encompass rape, domestic violence, stalking and sexual harassment.

Lawmakers were incredulous in March when LSU officials first revealed that they did not have signed agreements with law enforcement. It was one of the many problems uncovered in law firm Husch Blackwell’s lengthy report on LSU’s failures in responding to allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence in recent years.

“That’s insulting on so many levels,” Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell said after when LSU officials revealed the memorandum of understanding had never been signed.

Husch Blackwell also found that the university and the LSU Police Department never signed a memorandum because of a disagreement over whether LSUPD could share information with the Title IX office about sexual assaults. The law firm advised LSUPD to change those policies as well.

The shortcomings prompted a slew of new laws this year requiring universities to take more action in responding to sexual assaults and holding employees accountable for failing to report them. Among the new laws was one from Mizell, a Franklinton Republican, who again pushed for the signed agreements.

The new law also requires law enforcement to include information in police reports about whether victims are enrolled at a Louisiana institution.

Even once the agreements are signed, following through on them could prove to be a challenge. Jim Henderson, president of the UL system, said their institutions have existing agreements with local law enforcement that they’re expanding under the new law.

But while getting the signatures was easy, Henderson said the implementation requires frequent communication between institutions and law enforcement, and for staff members to understand their roles in the process.

“Executing the MOUs is a necessary first step, but having an open line of communication is the hard part,” Henderson told the lawmakers.

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