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Baton Rouge plan of government review begins this week

A panel this week will begin a monthslong process of reviewing the Baton Rouge plan of government, a process Mayor Sharon Weston Broome hopes to use to make changes to the police chief position.

For months, Broome has called for changing the process for how the police chief is hired and fired. Currently, the Baton Rouge Police Department chief is protected by civil service rules and cannot be easily fired, and the process for hiring a new police chief is also subject to regulations.

Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel says the goal is to make the police chief more like other department heads, which serve at the pleasure of the mayor. Broome also wants to make sure the local plan of government is in line with cities of similar size.

Still, lawmakers would also have to pass a bill that changes state law protecting police chiefs, an effort state Rep. Ted James tried last year. He says he pulled the bill amid questions from members of the Metro Council.

“I think they now get it,” says James, who plans to bring the bill back next session.

The panel reviewing the plan of government will meet once a month, says councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, who created the committee. It will review each chapter and make recommendations to the Metro Council, which could then pass along proposed changes to a vote of the public.

“Everybody has been talking about the police chief,” Collins-Lewis says. “Everything is up for review to make sure it’s updated in our current form of government.”

Broome also hopes to change the plan of government to ensure future mayors have an adequate transition period between their election and inauguration. She had less than a month of transition between her December election and January inauguration.

Along with Collins-Lewis, Metro Council members on the panel include Tara Wicker and Chandler Loupe, Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson, Finance Director Marsha Hanlon, Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp, NAACP Baton Rouge President Mike McClanahan, Federation of Greater Baton Rouge Civic Associations President Nancy Curry, LSU Law Center Dean Tom Galligan and attorney Winston Decuir.

—Sam Karlin

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