While "very shocked" by abuses uncovered by the press, a 27-year veteran of State Police says he wants to restore faith and accountability to the premier law enforcement agency.
Col. Kevin Reeves said it won't be easy: "Personally, I think that these are some of the darkest days that State Police has had, and as a career state trooper, that's troubling to me."
The Louisiana State Police have known no shortage of scandals in the 81 years since the Legi…
We agree, and unfortunately for Reeves' desire to turn the page on the scandals that led to his appointment in March, the disclosures will continue for a while. Part of that is just the inevitable process of investigation and assessment of the mistakes made by former Superintendent Mike Edmonson, and appeals processes for troopers involved.
We like some of the significant changes that Reeves outlined to the Press Club of Baton Rouge. They include a more consultative process for determining wrongdoing and making consistent judgments about punishments within the agency.
Nothing hurts an organization worse than the notion that there are insiders and second-stringers; that the former superintendent sent his dry cleaning to the Governor's Mansion to be done, while others paid for their own out of their uniform allowances, was just one bad example set.
Reeves properly suspended a highway traffic enforcement program with local agencies amid questions about whether troopers were charging for hours they didn't work. Reeves launched a criminal investigation after seeing surveillance footage from WVUE-TV in New Orleans that appeared to show troopers claiming they worked hours they didn't.
He said the LACE patrols, paid for in part by local funds, won't be resumed until "some meaningful change" can be made to ensure accountability.
More broadly, though, the new colonel is visiting with troopers across the state and working on the perhaps more difficult process of improving morale and stressing accountability and performance.
"I don't want to see all of the troopers painted with a broad brush," Reeves said.
We agree. The work of troopers in the storms of 2016 and 2017 should not be forgotten, nor their help with tourism security in the French Quarter and elsewhere in New Orleans, nor their investigations into officer-involved shootings of local agencies. The latter have been distressingly increasing.
On the upside, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature authorized a 50-member training class for new recruits. Manpower, though, will always be a difficulty as the workforce ages; Reeves said 270 current troopers will become eligible for retirement in 2018. While he hopes not to lose them all, the potential impact on institutional experience is obvious.
The agency also has not been immune to budget pressures, Reeves noted, with LSP falling behind its peers in investing in new technology.
We urge lawmakers and the administration to look at ways to fund new programs, such as an $11 million system for computer-aided dispatch, so that troopers' locations can be followed in real time.
Yes, there will be more revelations as the Edmonson investigation continues. But the agency doing good work for the people deserves support and encouragement as it gets its balance again.