BRPD commander Thomas Morse, Jr. named Baton Rouge’s next police chief

UWK breaks down the announcement for you. What’s this mean for BRPD & BR as a whole and what’s next?

BATON ROUGE — Thomas Morse, Jr., a police commander with 20 years of experience with the department, has been named Baton Rouge’s next police chief, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced Thursday at a news conference.

Morse will replace Murphy Paul, who retired earlier this month after announcing his retirement in July. He will take the helm of a department marred by scandal, lawsuits, and what many insiders say is historically low officer morale.

WATCH NOW: UWK BREAKS DOWN ANNOUNCEMENT

“Today marks an important day in our city’s history as we say goodbye to an exceptional leader and welcome a new chapter in the Baton Rouge Police Department,” Broome said. “Chief Murphy Paul, whose dedication and transformative leadership have been a cornerstone of progress for the past five and a half years, leaves behind a legacy of innovation, unity, and progress.”

Broome said the search for a new police chief was thorough and rigorous, involving more than 20 internal and external candidates.

BRPD chief Murphy Paul and incoming chief Thomas Morse

The mayor said Morse embodies the progressive vision and commitment to keeping the community safe. She said Morse’s dedication to upholding integrity and transparency aligned with the needs of Baton Rouge.

“Thomas Morse Jr. brings a wealth of experience and a forward-thinking approach that will undoubtedly build upon Chief Paul’s legacy,” she said.

Broome said a transition from Paul to Morse will occur sometime in January.

BRPD chief Murphy Paul and incoming chief Thomas Morse

“To the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department, I look forward to helping guide this great department and letting everyone see what I already know that we have a great group of law enforcement professionals in the Baton Rouge Police Department,” Morse said. “To the citizens of Baton Rouge and this community, I’ve sworn to protect and serve for the last 21 years. I look forward to continuing that in my new role as chief of police. I want every citizen of Baton Rouge to have faith in the Baton Rouge Police Department and know that we are here to serve you.”

Thomas Morse, Jr.’s Resume

Morse has been a member of BRPD for 20 years. He previously served as the commander of training services, overseeing the training academy, recruiting, and the firearms training unit.

Morse has also been a member of the departmental special response team (SWAT) for the last 15 years. 

“Being in training for the time that I have been gives me a unique experience and outlook,” Morse told the search committee during his interview. “I am able to interact with every member of the department during training throughout the year.”

Morse said transparency is a big part of his plan to address the challenges involving officers being charged with crimes, including sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Any allegation needs to be taken seriously and looked at head-on,” Morse said. “I’m going to use the words full transparency. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong. If we’re right, we’re right, and everybody needs to know the difference between the two.”

Morse said administrative and criminal investigations need to run independently.

“As a chief of police, you might be innocent criminally because there’s a different level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but administratively, you did some things. You’re no longer working for us, or there’s going to be some kind of disciplinary action.”

Morse said having community engagement could go a long way in ensuring that crimes are reported. He said he’d want to look at uses for technology and social media to make it easier to report crimes and interact with police.

He said he’d like to see some older programs revived, such as the bait car program.

In 2009, authorities partnered with insurance companies to start a statewide program. The program was aimed at reducing vehicle theft. 

The insurance companies donated vehicles equipped with digital, video, and audio recording devices, GPS tracking, remote door locking, and engine shutoff capabilities.

When the system was activated, law enforcement could stop the bait vehicle and make arrests.

The technique brought controversy because of concerns about the potential for entrapment. The NOPD received backlash in 2009 for leaving bait cars loaded with beer, cigarettes, and candy near a homeless encampment, allegedly tempting those to commit burglaries.

“I don’t see why a citizen in this city should not be able to leave their car unlocked in a parking lot with valuables and not worry about it getting broken into,” he said. “I don’t see why a citizen in this community should not be able to pull up to a gas station, leave their car running, go inside, get a drink, and come out and not expect their car to still be there.”

“I think programs like bait car where if criminals are like ‘Oh, I better think twice before breaking into this car’ because maybe it’s owned by police and would be very successful, I would like to see something like that brought back.”

Morse provided the board with a strategic plan based on 21st-century policing pillars. One of the things he was asked about was an item titled “Duty to intervene.”

“Duty to intervene is a newer item sweeping the country,” Morse explained. “Sergeant Sharon Douglas recently attended some training and is in the process of developing a lesson plan. Duty to intervene is when an officer is at a scene and sees another officer doing something they’re not supposed to be doing, like using excessive force or treating a civilian in a way they shouldn’t be. It is up to that officer and their responsibility to step in and stop that.”

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