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Baton Rouge Police Chief Prioritizes PAGE/RICE!


In a recent article from The Advocate New Baton Rogue Police Chief (Thomas Morse Jr.) outlined his priorities for his term.



Baton Rouge’s new police chief was sworn in Tuesday morning, offering a glimpse into his plans for his first 100 days leading the Police Department.


Thomas “T.J.” Morse Jr. marked his first day in the position, officially ending the six-year tenure of his predecessor, Murphy Paul. Morse was appointed to the role following a five-month search after Paul announced his retirement in July.


Morse, a Slidell native and LSU graduate, has worked for the department for 20 years, most recently serving as commander of BRPD’s training division and a member of the Special Response Team (SWAT).


Morse said his top priorities for the start of his term include continuing the downward trend in violent crime, examining BRPD’s current policies and, above all else, listening and learning from the Baton Rouge community about their needs.


Getting out into the community

Morse’s main focus for now will be getting as much facetime with elected officials, the community and his own officers as he can.

To do that, he plans to initiate a “Chat with the Chief” program in which the public can sign up online for 15-minute one-on-one meetings with him, he said. He’s already put together a schedule to meet with every employee at BRPD.


“I want all of Baton Rouge to have a voice in public safety, and I want every opportunity to listen,” Morse said.

He also plans to form a Youth Advisory Council, giving teenagers in Baton Rouge the opportunity to speak about issues affecting them and how police can better serve their communities. The council would meet at least once every other month, and potentially hold more meetings as needs arise, Morse said in an interview.

To assist in lowering crime rates, Morse said, he’ll continue to invest in the department’s technology programs like the Page/Rice Camera Initiative, a program launched in honor of homicide victims Devin Page Jr., 3, and Allison Rice, 21, to install motion-sensing cameras across Baton Rouge that are monitored by the department’s real-time crime center.

Morse said that within his first 100 days he hopes to add 100 more cameras to the program. That would roughly match the number of cameras BRPD brought online in 2023, he said.


Trust and transparency

Morse said he plans to conduct a “detailed, top down” review of BRPD’s policies in the coming weeks to determine which policies need adjustment and he will seek input from community groups like the Chief’s Advisory Council, a 30-member group formed by Paul in 2019 to discuss community issues and provide feedback on department policies.

Among the changes in policy Morse said he hopes to see are the implementation of a “duty to intervene” policy, which would require officers to intervene when they see another officer engaging in misconduct.


A “duty to intervene” policy was already in the works before the flood of “BRAVE Cave” lawsuits came in last year, accusing BRPD officers of abusing suspects at an unmarked warehouse, but Morse said the allegations only further confirmed the need for a written policy and training.


Morse said having overseen officer training amid the “BRAVE Cave” allegations gives him a unique perspective on how he can engage with officers and the community.


“Anybody that was hired within the last seven years was personally trained by me, so officers know me, they know what I expect. They know that I will not tolerate these kinds of things,” he said.

Morse said his previous role gave him insight on the need for not only tactical training but also training on areas like de-escalation and bringing awareness to potential police bias. Morse is one of only two BRPD officers certified in fair and impartial policing instruction.

“Those are the types of classes that are going to make the most impact on the community because every day our officers are getting out there talking to people, not every day they're having to draw their weapon or defend themselves,” Morse said. “So that piece is what we're really striving toward stressing.”


Officer wellness

Morse said at a community event Monday afternoon that he hopes to make the department more proactive in treating mental health issues in officers, as they’re often given little time to process traumatic events they witness before moving on to the next call. That issue, Morse said, is only further exacerbated by officer shortages.

“[Officers] can go from working a fatal crash, shooting, then have to wash blood off their hands and do a traffic stop,” Morse said.


By giving them more decompression time and encouraging conversations about mental health, Morse said, officers will be healthier, happier and provide better service to the community.


Though the department has struggled with staff shortages for years and currently has around 140 unfilled positions, Morse said he doesn’t plan to “sacrifice quantity over quality” when it comes to recruiting talented officers.

He said Tuesday that he will review the department’s organizational chart to find opportunities for more efficient uses of manpower and implement new recruitment and retention strategies.


Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony was an emotional affair for Morse, who choked back tears at one point as he offered gratitude for the outpouring of support he received from his fellow law enforcement officers over the last month.


“To the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department, it will be a true honor to serve as your chief and lead this amazing department that I love,” Morse said. “I will always strive to show everyone that the Baton Rouge Police Department is full of some of the best criminal justice professionals in the country.”


Email Gabby Jimenez at gabby.jimenez@theadvocate.com.



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