Inside the search for Baton Rouge’s next police chief: Meet the five finalists up for the job

BATON ROUGE — The search for Baton Rouge’s next police chief has been narrowed down to five finalist.

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.

She has one month to make her decision, and with a Dec. 5 deadline looming, if she decides not to appoint any of the five finalists, the entire search process to replace Murphy Paul, who announced his retirement in July, will start over.

It’s a daunting task with the next police chief taking charge of a department marred with scandal and lawsuits. The department’s problems and lack of public confidence were part of the questioning each of the 20 candidates who interviewed faced from the 10-person search committee.

Multiple credible sources believe there are two front-runners: Sharon Douglas and Myron Daniels. Both have interviewed for the job before.

UWK is highlighting the five candidates presented to Broome, which includes four current BRPD employees. They are presented in alphabetical order.

Myron Daniels

Daniels has spent 25 years with BRPD and for the past five years, has served as deputy chief under Paul.

Daniels pointed to many of the policies and programs he helped implement during his tenure as to why he would be the best choice for the city’s next police chief. Among them was his implementation of 21st century policing policies, helping steer BRPD to a culture of accountability and professionalism and increasing police pay for officers.

“One of my priorities has always been to remain building and improving trust within our community,” he told the committee. “That (has) required me to re-envision aspects of this profession … This community is very strong, and you can bridge the gaps, but it has to be a personal connection to bridge it.”

Daniels told the committee that under his leadership, the number of internal affairs complaints BRPD had to investigate dropped and that he helped implement an easier way for the public to file complaints online instead of in person.

“We are open. We do not hide anything that we do and as we are transparent with the public, we are also transparent with the officers that work within our department.”

Daniels says the next chief needs to be able to unify and be a true leader. He feels that his experience and leadership at BRPD allows him to do just that.

“I’ve done it. I’m doing it right now. I’ve been the second in command at the BRPD. That means in the chief’s absence, I am the appointing authority, and I can tell you the growth that I’ve had over the 5-plus years has been tremendous.”

When it comes to violent crime, he says that simplicity is the greatest approach. He says rehabilitation can work if the community is involved.

“My first 100 days will be a little different. The transition is a little easier because of what I do already.” He says that he is “very confident” in the direction BRPD is moving, adding that there is a lot of reform that’s taking place. “We are moving in a positive direction,” he told the committee.

He listed his 100 day priorities to the committee: Strengthen community relations, reduce crime, improve department morale, focus on recruitment and retention and officer wellness.

“They see a lot, they suffer from the same trauma, but the difference is that they do it on a daily basis. We have to make sure our officers are healthy … physically and mentally.”

During his interview process, Daniels said he voluntarily authorized the committee to review his personnel, disciplinary action and internal affairs file.

Sharon Douglas

Douglas, a 19-year veteran in the Baton Rouge Police Department, is the only female candidate who was sent to Broome. She has a master’s degree in business administration and is working on her doctorate for organizational development.

She is currently the director of the BRPD training academy, and she has held several roles during her tenure with the department including internal affairs investigator, police recruiter, violent crimes detective and uniform patrol officer.

“I understand the challenges and the current issues that BRPD is facing, and now, more than ever, I want to lead this agency to improve officer morale, officer development, retention, training, and job satisfaction to ultimately enhance police-community relations,” Douglas said during her interview. “I’ve done the work to prepare for this role, so I’m confident that my varied skills and experience make me a strong fit for this position. For 19 years I’ve been consistent with performing well, consistent with fairness, consistent with righteous decision making, consistent with improving the Baton Rouge Police Department.”

The search committee complimented Douglas’ “impressive” resume throughout her interview. However, there were questions about her leadership experience. She countered their concerns by pointing to her experience across the department and someone who has her hands on the pulse of not only what officers need in their next chief, but also what the community needs.

“I’ve spent years preparing myself for this opportunity to lead and positively impact this department and this community. I believe this position is right for me, right now. I am a visionary who will continue the work of not only bridging the divide between the police and the community, but also bridging the divide between the front line and the executive staff. All stakeholders matter and all should have a voice.”

During her interview with the search committee, Douglas spent much of her time highlighting her work as special projects coordinator within Chief Paul’s office, which included her leadership on the Baton Rouge Collective Healing Initiative. Baton Rouge was one of five cities chosen for the three-year grant project, and BRPD worked with several community organizations to find innovative, community-based strategies to foster meaningful community-police relationships.

“(That experience) actually enhanced my mindset on how to approach and see things from different perspectives.”

Douglas says that her first 100 days is “gonna be very, very, very busy”, and her top priorities will be procedural and focus on building trust within BRPD and the community.

“Building trust and legitimacy is pretty much the first pillar in 21st century policing, so that must be a priority. If you tackle that one, it kind of takes cares of the other pillars. As a police department, we need the citizens perceive us as a legitimate authority, to perceive that we are utilizing our powers and executing our duties and responsibilities responsibly, respectfully and professionally.”

She says that she would like to implement changes that include short-term assignments to have officers rotate every 3-4 months to prevent issues, use no-knock warrants “sparingly” and be an inclusive leader that allows all stakeholders to have a voice.

One hire she would like to make is an in-house psychologist that she would like integrated into the culture of BRPD to remove the stigma of mental illness.

Thomas Glover

Douglas, a law enforcement officer with more than 40 years of experience, is the only candidate not currently employed by BRPD.

The Grambling University grad was with the Dallas Police Department for nearly 40 years, and left the force a lieutenant before being hired as chief of the Lafayette Police Department. His historic tenure as the department’s first Black police chief abruptly ended after less than a year.

“I was abruptly terminated as a Chief of Police in Lafayette,” Glover said, addressing the ‘elephant in the room’. “To this day, I haven’t been told why. Thirty-six hours before I was terminated, I was told that ‘I trust you to get the job done.’ I was called in with 30 minutes notice and terminated.”

Glover has an ongoing lawsuit against the Lafayette Consolidated Government and parish president Joshua Guillory.

Glover said he was hired in Lafayette to address the disparity in the use of deadly force in Lafayette, and he says that there were very few people of diverse backgrounds in upper command.

He says that if he’s hired in Baton Rouge, he wants to work to restore trust and legitimacy to both the department and community.

“Trust and legitimacy means that the people trust the police department to get the job done. The police department is transparent. They are open with people that they talk to, and they don’t keep anything hidden.”

Glover says that his top priority during his first 100 days in office would be to make sure that he is on the same page as the Mayor-President. He also wants 1-on-1 time with Paul to go over what he feels are the department’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. He also wants to meet with the police union as well as business and community leaders. He says people should feel safe walking the streets of Baton Rouge.

On top of a 100-day plan, he also has a 30-day plan that includes targeting the city’s most wanted fugitives. He says that by taking top offenders off the streets, you can cut crime significantly.

Thomas “TJ” Morse, Jr.

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

Morse has served as 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 said. “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.”

David Wallace

Wallace is a 30-year veteran with the Baton Rouge Police Department. He is currently a captain and district commander of what is arguably one of the most violent areas of the city – District 1. The district includes Government Street to Winbourne Ave. from the Mississippi River to Airline Hwy.

Wallace, who has held various roles at BRPD from the SWAT team to special events coordinator, used his experience fighting violent crime in the city to discuss what his leadership as police chief would look like. He says that he wants the department to “police with a purpose.”

“I want to make every interaction count,” he told the committee. “BRPD is a stat-driven department. The only records we have is through negative enforcement. I want to implement a system to where we can have all our contacts measured.”

“We’re going to get our officers on the streets. You’re going to see them. You’re going to see a difference in appearance. You’re going to see pride, you’re going to see integrity, you’re going to see loyalty. But they’re going to stay in your community. We’re going to be like the Maytag repair man — we want you to see the van running around with nothing to do.”

One program that Wallace implemented was the violent crime mitigation. He pointed to it several times during his questioning, and he says the program led to a dramatic decrease in crime, particularly homicides. Since late June, there were only two homicides in the areas targeted (70802 and 70805 area codes).

“My objective was to identify the greatest stressor and figure out what I am going to do to alleviate it. I gather intelligence on where crime has occurred, what time of day they’ve occurred, when they have occurred and when are they most likely to reoccur, and we send officers to those areas during those times to be vigilant, to be active to be seen. We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in violent crime in the areas we have done this. And this is in the summer months when we historically have a lot of activity.”

While Wallace admits two homicides is still too many, he says the program is effective, and is one that has already been rolled out to other precincts.

“Once we get (violent crime) suppressed, we’re not moving on to something else. We’re going to stay in that area and do the same thing because we don’t want it to rekindle.”

Wallace also says there needs to be more transparency with the community about BRPD and internal accountability. He says his officers need to do a better job at reaching children in elementary and junior high school.

“This department has historically policed in a manner that we felt that the public wanted and that’s our pitfall because they’re our customers. We need to know exactly what it is they want, what services they want provided and that’s the services we need.”

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