Published: June 11, 2021
By: Kathleen Peppo, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE, La. — The chance to change police practices in Louisiana did not seem very good when Rep. Ted James presented a resolution to study them shortly after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
James had to agree in advance to demands from Republicans to remove Floyd’s name from the resolution.
One Republican, Rep. Tony Bacala of Prairieville, was not privy to that conversation. And when the resolution came up for debate on the House floor, Bacala, a former chief sheriff’s deputy in Ascension Parish, 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.
“If we’re going to talk, let’s talk,” Bacala said. “Let’s don’t limit what we’re willing to speak about to things that only some people want to speak about,” he said. “Of 800,000 law enforcement officers in this country, in that same period of time, 584 were killed in the line of duty, which means that the rate that cops die in the line of duty is 40 times higher than blacks.”
“Tony,” James responded, “I was pepper sprayed in handcuffs by a police officer. A white one.”
James also described being questioned by law enforcement officers for standing with four other black men outside of a barber shop in Baton Rouge. The questioning only ended when James handed the officer a card that identified him as a state legislator.
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