Efforts to reduce fatalities in police chases gain traction in Louisiana legislature

BATON ROUGE — After passing unanimously through the Senate last month, Senator Caleb Kleinpeter’s resolution to develop a task force on safety for law enforcement officers involved in high-speed chases reached the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Kleinpeter presented the resolution with a few amendments. There are 37 co-sponsors on Kleinpeter’s proposed legislation.

The task force initially was proposed to consist of the following:

  • One senator who shall serve as the chairperson
  •  One member of the House appointed by the speaker of the House
  •  One employee of the Louisiana State Police, office of internal affairs, appointed by the superintendent
  •  The executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association or his designee.
  •  The state public defender or his designee.
  •  The executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association or his designee.
  •  One member of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police appointed by the president of the association.
  •  One member of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice appointed by the executive director.

Kleinpeter’s amendments on Thursday included adding another member to the task force. The person would be the executive director of the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety at Louisiana State University or their designee.

According to the bill, the task force would meet as necessary and report their findings to the legislature, including one printed and electronic copy to the David R. Poynter Legislative Research Library no later than February 15, 2024.

The task force will consider low-cost or free training for local law enforcement agencies and available sources of funds to assist the agencies with the costs of providing necessary training and effective protocols among other things.

Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter

“The reason why I’m creating this task force, I’ll go back to December 31, 2022,” Kleinpeter said. “As we were all getting ready to celebrate the new year with friends and family, there was a high-speed pursuit that caused a tragic wreck in West Baton Rouge, where I reside, and claimed the lives of two beautiful teenagers that I knew. Their names were Maggie Dunn and Caroline Gill.”

Kleinpeter referenced the fatal crash on New Year’s Eve that involved former Addis police officer David Cauthron. Cauthron was in pursuit of Tyquel Zanders that day before he ran a red light and crashed into the car with the teenagers in it.

“I understand there is a policy, and it was broken, but was the chase worth the two lives of those young innocent girls?” he said. “What I don’t want to do is handcuff the police from doing their job and making it to where everyone runs as soon as the lights are turned on. I don’t know if it’s a change of pursuit procedures, training, or having a harsher penalty for aggravated flight. What I do know is we need to bring everyone to the same table to see what needs to happen and try to eliminate this from happening in the future.”

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