An “aggressive advertising campaign” is being launched by Lane Grigsby, a politically active local businessman, to draw attention in Baton Rouge to what he is calling a “growing problem of violent crime in the area,” according to a news release Friday.
The campaign, titled “Fight, Not Fear,” calls for the merging of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Baton Rouge City Police to “cut waste and cut crime,” said Jay Connaughton, the campaign spokesman.
Connaughton said the campaign is about to launch many TV and print ads to put pressure on elected officials to come up with “bold solutions.” The campaign will also use social media and its website, http://www.FightNotFear.com.
Connaughton cited FBI statistics showing a 40 percent increase in the murder rate over the past 10 years. He said Charlotte, N.C., Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis all merged police systems and saw positive results in reducing crime. The issue of consolidation has been considered several times by city-parish officials. It was explored in the late 1960s, late 1970s and in 2002 when former Mayor-President Bobby Simpson created a committee to review city-parish government efficiency.
Last year, Councilman Chandler Loupe sought to create a task force that would study consolidation of the agencies, however, there has been little action taken since then.
Among the obstacles that generally keeps the consolidation from taking off are:
- Police are civil service employees and governed by a union contract. Deputies are not.
- The two are members of different retirement systems, have different pay scales, and have different guidelines for promoting officers.
- The sheriff is elected. The police chief is appointed by the mayor-president.
“All the solutions to the crime problem should be on the table,” Connaughton said. “It’s time for the citizens of Baton Rouge to call on city officials to look at the facts and
not be afraid to do the right thing.”
Mayor-President Kip Holden said at a recent mayoral debate at Southern University that he did not support merging the two departments, citing the legal complications and potential for layoffs.
Both Councilman Mike Walker and attorney Steve Myers, who are also running for mayor-president, said they would support merging the offices.
Gordon Mese, a fourth candidate, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon.