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Gov.-elect Landry picks State Police leader, teases New Orleans crime-fighting plan

Gov.-elect Jeff Landry and wife Sharon at a news conference on Nov. 29, 2023, at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Greg LaRose
Louisiana Illuminator
Gov.-elect Jeff Landry and wife Sharon at a news conference on Nov. 29, 2023, at the Superdome in New Orleans.

This story was originally published by Louisiana Illuminator.

Gov.-elect Jeff Landry has picked a Crescent City native to lead Louisiana State Police and plans to expand the use of troopers to fight crime here, he announced Wednesday at a news conference at the Superdome.

Maj. Robert Hodges will become the new LSP superintendent once Landry takes office Jan. 8. Maj. Frank Besson, a 24-year LSP veteran, will become chief of staff, the number two spot in the agency.

An LSU graduate in criminal justice and Brother Martin High School alumnus, Hodges has been with State Police for 28 years, spending most of that time with the patrol and investigations divisions. He currently oversees LSP Region 2 Patrol which encompasses 18 southern parishes.

The governor-elect offered minimal details on what the expanded role of state troopers will be in New Orleans, saying he didn’t want to share any strategy specifics with criminals.

“I would not come here and give you all the specifics … the criminal element reads the newspaper and watches TV as well,” Landry told reporters. “I will tell you this, that everything is on the table.”

Additional Louisiana State Police appointments:

  • Lt. Col. Jody Hasselbeck, LSP Patrol deputy superintendent* 
  • Maj. Cordell Williams, LSP Support deputy superintendent
  • Lt. Col. Treone Larvadain, LSP Bureau of Investigation deputy superintendent*
  • Lt. Col. Greg Graphia, deputy superintendent and chief administrative officer*

* Remains in current position

Asked how State Police might be able to respond in ways the New Orleans Police Department can’t because of federal consent decree restrictions, Landry had a brief response: “Stay tuned.”

The consent decree dates back to 2012 in New Orleans and was put in place after former Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked the U.S. Justice Department to look into unconstitutional practices within the police department. Specifics within the decree prevent, among other things, officers from engaging in racial profiling, proactive stops and unwarranted searches. Police vehicle pursuits have also been curtailed while the NOPD has been under federal supervision.

Current Mayor LaToya Cantrell has tried unsuccessfully for years to have the decree lifted, arguing it has stymied NOPD response to violent crime and pulls its resources away from public safety. Landry said he has opposed the consent decree since its onset and supports Cantrell’s efforts to have it removed.

“The consent decree has completely eviscerated that department, but these folks are going to … stand in that gap until we can get NOPD stood up,” the governor-elect said, motioning to the new State Police leadership standing behind him.

Landry confirmed State Police will join NOPD officers to provide additional coverage during Carnival season but he would not expand on how soon or how many more troopers would be made available for routine crime-fighting in New Orleans.

The selection of Hodges as the new State Police leader came after members of Landry’s criminal justice advisory council interviewed every trooper with the rank of captain or above, according to the governor-elect.

Members of the advisory panel include Iberia Parish Sherry Tommy Romero, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, St. Martin Parish Sheriff Beckett Breaux and co-chairs Tony Clayton, district attorney for Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes, and Laura Cannizzaro, a former prosecutor from Orleans Parish.

The apparent internal selection process for LSP’s new superintendent comes as the agency is under investigation following the 2019 death of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist, while in the custody of white state troopers. Details of State Police involvement and an alleged cover-up remained undisclosed for two years until the Associated Press made public body-camera footage that showed troopers beating, dragging and kicking Greene while handcuffed and prone on the roadside.

Incoming Attorney General Liz Murrill announced at Wednesday’s news conference she intends to hire former federal prosecutor Ed O’Callaghan of New York to conduct an internal study of Louisiana State Police. WilmerHale, the Washington, D.C., law firm O’Callaghan joined after three years in the Trump administration, has conducted similar reviews of law enforcement agencies in Illinois, Maryland and New York, Murrill said.

Landry also said he and Murrill have reached an agreement to provide additional prosecutors from the attorney general’s office to supplement the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s staff. Personnel from the AG’s office will handle any arrests and investigations that State Police initiate or oversee once the cases are presented to the DA’s office.

Orleans DA Jason Williams was present for the announcement. He said there will be “no lines of demarcation” with regards to which cases his prosecutors and the AG’s team handles.

“It is our goal, Jason and I’s, that this new partnership will assist in restoring the rule of law to this city and provide victims the justice they deserve,” Landry said.

The governor-elect also announced Brig. Gen. Thomas Friloux will become the 51st adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard. The position involves oversight of some 11,000 members of the state’s Army and Air Force National Guard units.

In addition to their national defense duties, National Guard personnel often lead the state’s response to natural disasters.

Landry also introduced Bryan Adams as the new state fire marshal.

Adams is chief administrative assistant for Jefferson Parish government and a former state lawmaker. He previously served as a volunteer fire chief in Terrytown and is a member of the Louisiana Fire and Emergency Training Academy Commission.

In his role with the state fire marshal, Adams coordinated logistics in Grand Isle following the 2010 BP oil spill and for the state’s 2016 flood response.

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