BATON ROUGE — As he enters his final days as Baton Rouge police chief, Murphy Paul was candid about his tenure as chief, crime in Baton Rouge and the challenges facing the next chief as he addressed the Press Club of Baton Rouge during their weekly luncheon.
Paul, who announced he was retiring earlier this year after five years as Baton Rouge’s top cop, treated the luncheon as an exit news conferences where he touted a drop in violent crime as well as several crime-fighting initiatives he enacted as chief.
“We’re dealing with them far too often”
“As of today, homicides are down 23% in the city compared to last year,” Paul said citing stats from the department’s Real Time Crime Center. “That’s on top of the 2022 reduction in homicides. That’s around a 44% reduction in homicides over the past two years.”
Paul said that in addition to fighting violent crime, his officers have taken 1,236 guns taken of the streets of Baton Rouge. But he believes the extent of the crime is being caused by a “small group” of repeat offenders.
“One of the things that we hear from our police officers is that we’re dealing with the same individuals over and over and over again,” Paul said. “What we’re seeing when we’re dealing with this small group of individuals, that we believe are responsible for the violent crime in our community, is that we’re dealing with them far too often.”
The police chief noted that the court system is still playing catchup from the impacts and delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the repeat offenders, Paul noted the mental health crisis impacts the city. He says there has been positive improvements in providing critical care services to those experiencing a mental health crisis, but more works needs to be done.
“I believe it is unreasonable to expect law enforcement, to expect our police officers, to solve the problems that I believe would be better handled by other community professionals and services,” he said.
Brave Cave Investigation
Paul also address the “very concerning” legal woes his department is in the middle of related to the ‘Brave Cave’ investigation. Paul says BRPD has been named in at least six federal lawsuits, 13 internal affairs investigations and three active criminal cases related to the alleged “torture warehouse” used by officers.
The investigation has led to one officer, Troy Lawrence, Jr., resigning in August. Lawrence’s resigned came while he was reportedly on administrative leave for previous alleged incidents that were also under investigation.
At the time the ‘Brave Cave’ was exposed publicly, BRPD Chief Deputy Myron Daniels said that the city-parish government owns the warehouse at the center of the lawsuits, and that BRPD has been using the building as a narcotics processing facility for two decades.
The Next Chief
Despite announcing plans to step down as chief over the summer, Paul said he would stay on as chief until a successor can be named.
The Police Chief Search Committee assigned with the chief search has handed over their top five candidates to East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. And after facing grilling questions from the committee, each of the five finalists will now sit down with her for a final interview.
“It is important for us as a community to support the decision that the mayor makes. It’s important as we move forward as one community. And my request is that when the mayor is presented with the opportunity to announce that decision, we give our next chief of police the support and prayers needed as the chief embarks on a new journey in leadership to further improve policing in the great city of Baton Rouge.”
Paul didn’t endorse a specific candidate, and he said he only listed to a few of the interviews.
“We have experienced much progress over the past five and a half years. Although there has been progress, there have been many, many challenges along the way. But what I want, and I hope one of the takeaways for all those listening to understand, is that there is nothing simple about policing in America today. Policing is a complex profession, and it requires a holistic response with all stakeholders at the table. A community approach that is not only inclusive of law enforcement but also includes education leaders, parents, elected officials, community leaders, mental health professionals, business leaders, faith-based leaders, and, most importantly, an area that I think we can improve upon is bringing our next generation to the table.”