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State Police head defends picking trooper with checkered past to lead new compliance division
BATON ROUGE - Louisiana State Police Colonel Lamar Davis defended his decision this week to place Captain Robert Burns in charge of the agency's brand-new compliance section.
Burns was the focus of a WBRZ Investigative Unit story in 2017 after documents revealed he illegally searched names in law enforcement databases for non-law enforcement purposes. He was suspended for 64 hours, and a disciplinary letter said he was in violation of department policy and federal law.
Colonel Lamar Davis sent out a note to all of State Police last month telling staff to congratulate Capt. Robert Burns on his new title. The colonel's letter said the goal of the unit is to focus on fair and impartial policing, de-escalation and community engagement.
"Redemption is a part of our society," Colonel Lamar Davis said. "There is no level at this point in time when someone is held accountable, and when they violate the law and are held accountable, we have to be truthful about giving second chances. If someone has earned that opportunity, we should do just that, and that's what I'm doing."
Multiple state troopers reached out to the WBRZ Investigative Unit questioning the decision. Legal experts also did not think it was a good move.
"It's sending the message to other troopers that the person over compliance does not have clean hands at all," LSU law professor Ken Levy said. "That will promote distrust among his subordinates, if not the public."
State Police created the compliance section amid a federal investigation and audit into the agency following the death of Ronald Greene in 2019. The audit is ongoing but already turning out recommendations. It suggested starting the section, which will be responsible for improving organization, technology, transparency and accountability.
Davis said that despite Burns' past, he believes he's changed and will do exactly what is needed to move State Police forward.
"We are expected to be perfect," Davis said. "We are not. We are human. We are fallible. When we make mistakes, we should be held accountable. Some of those troopers will tell you I'm tough on the troopers, but when they are held accountable and have earned the chance to continue leading the agency, I will give them that opportunity."
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