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Louisiana bills would increase transparency in law enforcement and public schools

The Louisiana Legislature this week passed legislation that will help ensure schools are complying with federal anti-discrimination laws, and, in a separate bill focused on law enforcement agencies, create a task force that will improve collection and reporting of data on basic law enforcement activities.

The SPLC Action Fund advocated for the passage of the bills, which Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign into law. House Bill 160 (HB 160) would require school districts to collect data on school climate and discipline, while House Bill 506 (HB 506) creates the law enforcement task force.

“Comprehensive data collection and reporting would help school officials create and maintain safe and welcoming learning environments for all students,” said Victor Jones, SPLC Action Fund senior supervising attorney. “Publishing that data would inform the public on how our tax dollars are being spent. HB 160 is essential for transparency and accountability in Louisiana’s public schools and for ensuring that all our children are being treated fairly.”

The SPLC Action Fund has advocated comprehensive data collection and reporting in schools because it will help school officials create and maintain safe and welcoming learning environments for all students, regardless of race, gender or disability.

An SPLC report, released in November, analyzes the nearly universal disregard among Louisiana law enforcement agencies for keeping mandatory records on traffic stops.

The report, “Police and Data Collection: Why Louisiana Needs Reform,” includes recommendations for the state Legislature and law enforcement agencies such as requiring comprehensive data collection and publication on police activities, and the enactment of penalties for departments that fail to comply with the law.

“Comprehensive data collection would give Louisiana law enforcement agencies a valuable resource that could reduce crime, save tax dollars and promote professional police work,” said Jamila Johnson, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC Action Fund, a member of Louisianans for Prison Alternatives.

“When data is not collected, agencies operate without the key information they need to make informed decisions, and the public is left in the dark,” Johnson said. “It is time for Louisiana to require data collection from all law enforcement agencies. Data informs better policing and forges trust between law enforcement and the people they’re sworn to protect and serve. Better data will make Louisiana safer.”

Tim Lentz, retired police chief for the city of Covington, said: “In today’s climate of transparency, collecting data on police activities will help show that overwhelmingly police activities are honest and sincere applications of the law. For the individuals that do abuse the system, this bill will provide a mechanism to identify them and either properly train or remove them.”

Photo by Michael Ventura/Alamy Stock Photo