SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond only moved into the Chief’s office five weeks ago, but he’s wasted no time in crafting a plan that promises to get more officers on the streets and deter the violent crime that’s plagued the city in recent years.
Raymond, who has nearly 19 years of service under his belt, was promoted to Substitute Chief following Alan Crump’s medical leave. But there’s nothing temporary about Raymond’s approach to the job. He has the full authority of a permanent chief, and he’s taking advantage of it.
“Where I really can have an impact is better communication with the citizens that we serve," explained Raymond in an exclusive interview with KSLA News 12. His new strategy for fighting crime hinges on what he calls “proactive policing.”
“Part of proactive policing is officers looking for crimes before they occur, stopping suspicious people, stopping suspicious vehicles, and arresting people before they’ve had a chance to prey on the innocence of others.”
Raymond laid out his plan from a plush blue chair in a conference room at Shreveport Police Headquarters, the walls lined with crime statistics books and thick binders containing the department’s more than $50 million operating budget — which Raymond was responsible for creating and implementing during his time as Chief Administrative Assistant.
Raymond is bringing his experience on a variety of teams in the Department to the Chief’s office. Those experiences, along with his beliefs about crime, are informing his new strategy.
“I am a police officer at heart. I am not an administrator," says Raymond, who has served as a Special Response Team Member, Narcotics Agent, and Patrol Officer.
“There is certainly an administrator and managerial role that goes with this job, but I wear a uniform and vest and carry all of my equipment just like my officers do, because I am going to do the job that I expect them to do. I am out there in the streets with them and I am saying hey lets go work this together.”
But Raymond doesn’t plan on just working together with fellow officers. He believes early intervention is key to reducing crime, and is prepared to work with the public to help.
“Let’s try to prevent people from having to go to jail,” says Raymond. "If I can get you when you are young and show you there is a better way. Stay away from a life of crime, contribute to society, then that’s better for all of us.
The real challenge, according to Raymond, lies in forming relationships with citizens and building trust. The Chief says they need everyone to do their part.
“I can’t tell you the number of reports I get on my phone where detectives have interviewed witnesses to shootings and homicides that say 'I didn’t see anything, I am not a rat, I am not a snitch."
“If you are giving the police nothing and expect us to solve the crime from ground zero, that makes it difficult for us. If you would give us a little information it will give us something to go off of.”
The good news is that the number of violent crimes in the city has dropped in recent months. Crime data from the Shreveport Police Department shows a decrease in overall violent crime from January to October 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.
However, Shreveport does have a higher rate of violent crime than comparable cities like Montgomery, AL, Lafayette, LA, and Huntsville, AL, according to 2017 crime statistics from the FBI.
The public perception is often that Shreveport is a crime-ridden city with a disproportionate amount of violence. Raymond faces an uphill battle in correcting that perception.
During the interview, we showed Raymond a clip of a KSLA investigation with three mothers who had all lost sons to gun violence. In all three cases, the mothers say they were left in the dark and unable to get information from police.
Tammy Davis, Wendy Benjamin, and Latasha Kavanaugh all have the same complaint. Tammy said, "The detectives don’t even much help to solve the crime. They can’t tell me that they’re working on it. You ain’t working on it, you don’t give us a call back. He didn’t call me or my husband. They don’t even call you back, you have to call them. When you call them, “oh he’s out, he’s on vacation.” Latasha agreed, “We get absolutely nothing.”
After watching the video, Raymond nodded and frowned.
“We don’t have a lot of investigators in their office waiting on phone calls," he explained. "But that doesn’t excuse us for calling back a victim or a mother of a victim and answering some basic questions.”
“I would ask that you give us the opportunity to correct those deficiencies , so if you have problems with some of the officers let us know and we will have somebody call you or if at all possible I will call you myself.”
Raymond is tasked with solving a problem as old as the police memorabilia displayed among the books and binders on the shelves in the conference room. But he thinks the relationship between police and the public would be stronger if officers and civilians took the time to get to know each other.
“We are people just like you, we just happen to have a specific job. I want you to get to know Ben Raymond outside of Chief Raymond. I think that’s something that both police officers and citizens can do better.”