La. State Police superintendent: Department faces its 'darkest days'

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA / WGMB) - As numerous agencies investigate whether his predecessor misused funds, the new head of Louisiana State Police says his push to restore public confidence continues.

Col. Kevin Reeves told the Press Club of Baton Rouge Monday that his agency is facing some of its darkest days ever.

"As a career state trooper, that’s troubling to me,” he said.

Reeves spent 27 years with the department before his promotion in March. He replaced former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who stepped down amid claims of using his position for personal luxury.

"We're at a point right now where we have to sit back and ask ourselves how we got to where we’re at,” Reeves said.

One controversy surrounding Edmonson’s nine-year tenure regards revelations that four troopers went golfing and sightseeing in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon before a law enforcement conference in San Diego last year. The former superintendent publicly lambasted the side trip, though a police review found he knew about the trips as they were happening, even deleting photographs and text messages from the officers. Upon taking the helm, Reeves demoted two of the officers, who charged the department roughly $13,000 in overtime and expenses.

The natural inclination when you’re facing a crisis is to blame others,” said Reeves. “I just don’t think that’s acceptable.”

Edmonson’s own use of state police funds has come under scrutiny as well. A state auditor’s report claims he ate free meals at the state police cafeteria, lived rent-free at the state’s public safety compound and had prison inmates deliver him food and chauffeur his wife to a Bob Seger concert. Edmonson has not commented publicly on the police probe, nor on the audit draft.

The multiple investigations also come after WVUE-TV in New Orleans obtained surveillance footage showing troopers collecting overtime for hours they have not worked. Those officers were associated with Local Agency Compensated Enforcement, a highway traffic policing program. The report led Reeves to suspend the program.

"We have put together our commanders and our majors to take a look at the program and see the merits,” he said.

One program Reeves has created is a review panel. Members are tasked with disciplining unruly officers.

"I wanted to make sure there was no way that I could impact bias into the decisions being made,” he said.

Reeves declined to discuss specific internal reviews, citing active criminal investigations and appeals from troopers involved.

Hoping to ease record-keeping, the superintendent said he hopes the department can acquire computerized dispatch and “e-Ticket” systems. State police officials estimate the technology would cost $11 million, adding they are prepared to ask legislators for funds.

"We'll be looking to other options available to us, but we haven’t found them yet,” he said.

Reeves noted that, in addition to the state risking a billion-dollar revenue shortage next year, the state police faces an impending “manpower cliff.” Nearly 300 troopers, roughly a quarter of the force, are eligible for retirement in the spring. Asked if the recent controversies will deter potential replacements, he said the actions of a few to reflect upon the full department’s reputation.

"It is my hope that through all the controversies, all the setbacks that we have in the agency, that we come out better on the other side,” Reeves added.


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