Shreveport DDA director issues statement acknowledging “tone deaf” statements, plans for special meeting

Local

SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Director of the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority has issued a statement in response to criticism from employees, the mayor, and the local chapter of the NAACP to the DDA’s handling of an incident involving two parking patrollers.

KTAL/KMSS reported on the incident involving DDA parking patrolman Detric Bell and a run-in with a group of men that work for SBC Bail Bonds on Marshall Street in early June. Bell says the men took issue with his request to move a vehicle or risk a ticket and devolved into the men using racial slurs and unholstering their guns.

“People do act badly when they get tickets and guns are legal. People can do open carry. People can do concealed carry. That’s another discussion for another day, ” DDA Executive Director Liz Swaine said at the time.

“We’ve had other incidents downtown where people have waved guns. We’ve had other incidents where people have said hateful and hurtful things. Unfortunately, this is not the first time someone has used that word and unfortunately, it won’t be the last time.”

The story, and the DDA’s initial statement after the story aired asserting that “Black Lives Matter,” prompted Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins to call on the DDA to “translate those words into action by taking steps to ensure that DDA employees’ safety concerns are addressed and that the culture within DDA is not discriminatory or otherwise hostile. In my estimation, such actions are required to demonstrate that black lives do, in fact, matter.”

It also prompted a statement from the Shreveport chapter of the NAACP alleging racism inside the Shreveport DDA, calling Swaine out specifically for her “lack of compassion and empathy and calling for the arrest of Victor Llanito, the bail bondsman involved in the June incident. As of Tuesday morning, no arrests had been made.

In a statement posted to the DDA Facebook page Monday, Swaine said that, while her comments in that story were technically correct, she acknowledges that they were “tone-deaf.”

“My response when asked about guns was that many people wear them and carry them, and it is their legal right to do so. Were my comments technically correct? Yes. Were they also tone deaf? Without a doubt.”

“Though my comments used in the television story seemed to wave off this incident, it is important to know this is not the case and has never been the policy of the DDA. Mr. (parking office head Lorenzo) Lee and I often talk about to the patrollers about the importance of them removing themselves from ANY situation that feels physically threatening to them; to get a safe distance away and call Mr. Lee or SPD, or both. We regularly ask Shreveport Police to take reports on persons downtown at the advice of SPD detectives who say they need the information to build potential cases.”

Swaine went on to explain that they DDA has brought in officers from both Shreveport and Bossier PD to talk to the patrollers, “not only to share advice on dealing with difficult people, but in order to share stories and comradery with others who deal with some of the same issues. Our goal going forward will be to seek out the best resources to provide this training and assistance. We will also look at the option of mental health counseling to assist patrollers and other staff with processing their feelings and reactions to such an encounter.”

Swaine also said she contacted Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond about a year ago to seek out advice about body cameras for the patrollers because she felt it made sense to purchase the same cameras as SPD on order to have better vendor support. At the time, she says Raymond tolder her that had not yet made a decision on a vendor and that they were testing out several brands, but that they now seem to be closer to this decision.

“My goal is to equip the patrollers with cameras that will make encounters more than ‘he said, she said’ and give SPD the evidence it needs to make arrests when warranted.

The statement did not detail how the DDA’s cameras would be paid for, but it did note that the DDA “would support any mayor – or city council -initiated ordinance that would provide additional penalties against those seeking to harm our patrollers,” and that the DDA board will be holding a special meeting this week “to talk about actionable steps to ensure protective measures for the patrollers.”

KTAL/KMSS has confirmed that special meeting is set for Wednesday afternoon.

“I have a hard time understanding how anger over a $10 parking ticket can turn into an ugly encounter with racial slurs and threats, but I also understand that in some of those cases, these inappropriate reactions might have more to do with the color of the people giving the tickets than the ticket itself. This is not right, and it will never BE right. My job is to make people hear this and to assure through words and actions that anything else is unacceptable,” Swaine said in closing the statement.

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