State Rep. Edmond Jordan plans to author pursuit protocol legislation

Staff Report

A state representative from West Baton Rouge Parish plans to introduce legislation on pursuit protocol when lawmakers head into the 2023 session in April.

State Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Brusly, said he wants to approach the matter from a civil perspective.

The move comes in response a deadly New Year’s Eve accident in West Baton Rouge Parish.

Addis police Officer David Cauthron, 42, was arrested and booked Sunday on two counts of negligent homicide and one count of negligent injuring after a car crash left two teenage girls dead and a boy in critical condition.

Cauthron was reportedly going 86 mph when he ran a red light in Brusly – outside of his jurisdiction – and hit the vehicle.

Maggie Dunn, 17, and Caroline Gill, 16, were pronounced dead. Dunn’s brother, Liam Dunn, 18, suffered multiple injuries and remains in ICU at a Baton Rouge hospital.

The accident stemmed from a Baton Rouge police pursuit of a man allegedly driving a vehicle he stole from his parents.

District Attorney Tony Clayton said he wants to prosecute the matter as a criminal case.

State Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Brusly, has proposed legislation on pursuit protocol in Louisiana.

“I applaud Tony Clayton for prosecuting in this matter, but at the end of the day a lot of district attorneys will not want to be put in a position where they’re prosecuting law enforcement,” Jordan said.

Jordan said he wants to address the matter from a civil perspective.

He wants to add strict liability and potentially add punitive damages.

“If we can’t go with strict liability, maybe we can go with gross negligence standards and do it that way,” Jordan said. “I’m not opposed to the tiered system, but my issue is that if you say we’re allowed to do the high-speed chase if we believe the guy is a murder suspect, but not allowed if it’s a stolen car or a gallon of milk, or whatever.

“Ultimately, what they’re going to say is that they don’t know if he was suspected of murder stealing a gallon of milk,” he said. “So, I don’t know if you prevent the chases that way.”

Jordan said he is looking at it from a more “results-based” scenario.

He believes civil liability should apply to a pursuit if it results in death or serious bodily injury.

“Each agency has its own different policies, but just because you have a policy does it mean you’re trained on the policy or if there will be enforcement on the policy,” Jordan said. “As an example, let’s say that cop was going 90 mph through a 45-mph zone, and it was a totally fortunate situation, and nobody got hurt. If we saw the same video of a guy going 90 in a 45 and nobody got hurt? Guess what? Nobody’s going to say anything about that.”

Law enforcement agencies need to have a motivation to train properly, and you need to have a deterrent if the policy is violated, Jordan said.

“The easiest way I’ve seen is when you come at them civilly and hurt them where the money is,” he said. “It means either the department has to pay out or it means the department’s insurance company has to pay out.”

If an insurance company pays out, they would audit policies and perhaps drop the department from coverage or raise its rates beyond affordability if the department has too much exposure to liability.

“I hate to say this, but the financial incentive is usually the biggest incentive, and that’s why I’m trying to attack it from this perspective instead of the criminal perspective,” Jordan said. “If someone wants to add criminal statutes to it, I’m not opposed to them doing it that way, but I don’t think it’s the best way to try to solve this situation.”

Jordan said he is trying to prevent such an accident from happening again.

The financial perspective may be the best way to do it, he said.

He said he has received a lot of call from lawmakers willing to coauthor or sign on to the legislative proposal.

“This is not a one-man show, so if we can get some of these things done, I’m open to suggestions,” Jordan said. “I’m not opposed to the sheriff’s association, or the DA’s association or the chiefs of police, any of those guys.

“We’ll take the input, but my ultimate goal is to make sure there’s some accountability,” he said. “As long there with that, we’ll be on the same page, but if they’re trying to lessen the accountability, there will be some issues.”

As a father of two – including a daughter the same age as one of the two girls in the accident – Jordan said the issue is personal to him from that perspective.

“Just like Miss Dunn, my mother was assistant principal at Brusly High School when I was a student there for years, and I’m a graduate of the school,” he said. “One thing I’m looking at adding to the statute, and it may be problematic, but I’d like to make the statue retroactive, to where if they can’t bring their children back, maybe they can benefit from the statute in some way. Proposals should’ve been done, but now is the time and it is all so sad.”