Thursday, July 18, 2024

Louisiana’s violence against police database has only 10 entries in 17 years

by BIZ Magazine

(The Center Square) — In the first 17 years since Louisiana created a database of criminals who commit violence against police, only 10 offenders were added to the registry, according to a state audit.

A recent audit report from Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack examined implementation of the Violence Against Peace Officers Registry created by the legislature in 2005 and amended in 2019.

The law requires offenders who commit violence against peace officers to be included in the database for 10 years, with the goal of alerting officers during future interactions to reduce the potential for violence. In 2019, the registry was expanded to include those convicted of terrorism offenses.

Auditors found that while the law was created in 2005, both Louisiana State Police and the Department of Corrections did not implement a system to include all applicable offenders on the registry until September 2022.

“As a result, as of August 2022, the Registry only contained 10 offenders and was incomplete,” auditors wrote.

Part of the reason why is local law enforcement agencies were unaware of their responsibilities for reporting offenders, though the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association alerted local sheriffs about the requirement in 2019.

“However, sheriff’s offices only began complying with the VAPO statutes in the Fall of 2022 after being contacted by LSP or DOC,” according to the report.

Since September 2022, DOC staff have reviewed offender data for the previous decade in the agency’s Corrections and Justice Unified Network system to identify offenders and submit information to the state police for the registry.

The registry has since swelled to 114 active registrants in 44 parishes, despite challenges at the DOC in identifying offenders.

“Because CAJUN does not include certain details related to crimes committed in a user-friendly platform, DOC has to manually determine which offenders have convictions for VAPO-related offenses by reviewing each offender’s records,” auditors wrote. “DOC staff stated this process is time consuming and determining whether the peace officer was the victim and on duty, at the time of the offense, is difficult using information in CAJUN.”

Auditors noted that DOC and other stakeholders suggested identifying VAPO offenses at sentencing to streamline the process, a recommendation auditors included as a “matter for legislative consideration.”

A review of a requirement in the registry law for the state police to implement an alert flag in offenders’ criminal history records found alert flag was developed in 2011 and is currently in use.

The Louisiana State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information responded to the audit report in a letter to Waguespack on July 10 that concurred with the findings and outlined how the department works to improve.

Those efforts include a review of offenders over the past decade and notifications to qualifying offenders of the registration requirement.

Officials also noted “every inmate is now screened and when we have knowledge of a qualifying offense, notice is provided at or upon release,” the letter read.

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