D.A. Has Diverse Team of Prosecutors
In a parish that is only 51 percent white in registered voters, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore thinks it is essential that all segments of the community be represented in the DA’s office. It’s essential to build trust, he told the Ronald Reagan Newsmaker Luncheon meeting at Café Américain.
“Nationally, only four percent of attorneys are black, and only one percent of prosecutors are black,” he said. That can create a divide in the community, he said, which is why things are very different in the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s office.
The DA’s office is actually the largest law firm in the city with more than 160 employees. Of these, there are 60 assistant district attorneys, who are organized into 10 sections. Of Hillar Moore’s 10 section chiefs, five are black, he said. “They were chosen because of their ability, character, and reputation,” he said.
District Attorney Moore has himself held virtually every position on the DA’s staff, starting as an investigator in the 1970’s. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from LSU and earned a law degree from Southern University. He has been in the criminal justice field for more than 40 years.
He has served as president of the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association. To the surprise of many, he is a Democrat, although he says party really plays no role in his work as District Attorney.
When the Alton Sterling case arose last year, Moore recused himself because he had some connection to the family of one of the officers involved.
However, he and his office will be very much involved if there are protests or violence when the U.S. Justice Department announces what it will do in the Alton Sterling case. The District Attorney and his office have worked with other agencies to reform the procedure to be followed when officer-involved shootings occur in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Now when the Baton Rouge City Police or East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office experience an officer-involved shooting, the investigation is handled by State Police, rather than the agency directly involved in the case. He said reports and videos in such cases will also be made public.
Moore said many of the homicides in East Baton Rouge Parish involve domestic violence, and that is difficult to prevent. On the other hand, gang violence can be controlled. The BRAVE task force is attacking that problem, and the District Attorney’s office is playing a major role in that initiative, he said.
One of the ways BRAVE can help is identifying sources of violence before they happen. “Kids let you know if they have a beef with someone. We can go to both parties and calm things down before it turns violent,” he said.
The backbone of law enforcement in the City of Baton Rouge is uniform patrol, he said. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has asked Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl D’Abadie to resign but he has so far refused. Under Civil Service rules, he can only be removed from office for cause. “I’ve expressed my opinion that Chief D’Abadie is doing a great job,” Moore said.
With regard to the Alton Sterling case, Moore said, “When the decision comes down, law enforcement will be prepared. We have guidelines on how everyone will act.”
“We welcome peaceful protest. However, those who come from out of town with guns or who try to burn down buildings or block the Interstate or commit violence against the police or our citizens, that will not be permitted,” he said.
Ironically, during protests, the favorite weapon of choice is not guns but bottled water. When thrown, they can injure or even kill someone, he said.
Moore said he was disappointed that President Trump asked for the resignation of U.S. Attorney Walt Green, who was appointed by President Obama. Moore said Green is not a partisan but an objective law enforcement professional. The new acting U.S. Attorney is Corey Amundson.
When told the District Attorney’s office is one of the most powerful positions in government because of its ability to have people charged with a crime, Hillar Moore agreed.
“That’s why it’s so important that a District Attorney hold that power close and only use it when necessary,” he said.