Debate over policing leads to tension in Louisiana House

Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, shared his own difficult experiences with police in supporting a resolution to study policing in the state.
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, shared his own difficult experiences with police in supporting a resolution to study policing in the state.(Sarah Gamard / LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: June 24, 2020

By: Kathleen Peppo, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) – A racially charged debate on the House floor about a resolution to establish a task force to make recommendations about policing ended with remarks from Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, about his own experiences with law enforcement.

The House approved the resolution 99-0, but only after Republicans had pushed privately before the debate to remove references to George Floyd, a black man who died when a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes.

Rep. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, proposed the amendment to remove any mention of Floyd’s death. House members passed it with 67 yeas and 32 nays.

“The first piece of legislation only mentioned George Floyd,” James, who is African American, said, referring to the recent event that inspired the public outcry to which the resolution was responding. “Blake, we could have filled five pages with names.”

In an effort to ensure approval for the study that could lead to police reform, however, James reluctantly agreed to the amendment.

The resolution, written by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, had been approved by the Senate with the reference to Floyd’s death. Since the House amended it to remove that reference, the resolution will be returned to the Senate for consideration. Under the resolution, the task force would be called the Police Training, Screening, and De-escalation Task Force. It will study law enforcement training and practices and make recommendations to the Legislature.

James had agreed before the debate to delete the references to Floyd, but Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, was not privy to the conversation. When the resolution came up for debate on the floor, Bacala, who had worked in law enforcement, said language in the resolution about blacks being three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement officers than whites addressed only one side of the issue.

Read more at KALB

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