BATON ROUGE– Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy held a news conference Friday to give an update on the case involving three officers in a corruption case.
The news conference comes one day after three officers turned themselves in on malfeasance in office and other charges on Sept. 28.
One of the officers arrested Thursday is Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence Sr., the second-highest ranking officer on the force. Lawrence joined officers Jesse Barcelona and Todd Thomas as they turned themselves in to a judge at the 19th Judicial District Court early Thursday afternoon. All three men bonded out of prison late Thursday evening.
Allegedly, the warrants have to do with a body camera that was illegally destroyed, possibly thrown in a body of water. That body camera is said to have captured illegal activity of a possible beating at the hands of Baton Rouge Police Officers three years ago, according to multiple sources.
Five BRPD officers, including Deputy Chief Lawrence, are at the center of the alleged incident three years ago. He was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 27. He’s charged with malfeasance in office, principal to simple battery, principle to obstruction of justice, and principle to theft.
The fifth officer is currently being protected under whistleblower status
The fourth officer, Doug Chutz, is out of town and will turn himself in when he returns.
“We promised transparency, and we are delivering on that promise today,” Paul said Friday.
Sept. 28, 2020
He described the incident that occurred on Sept. 28, 2020, in a bathroom at the Baton Rouge Police First District precinct on Plank Road.
He said two officers used department-issued Tasers on a man under arrest to make him comply with a strip search. Paul noted a street crime officer was observed hitting the victim, causing a package of allegedly synthetic marijuana to fall from the man’s anal area.
“Due to that taser being armed, the taser sends a signal to the body cam,” Paul explained. “That department-issued body camera was activated. The officers didn’t realize that the body camera was on until after the incident. The officer was directed by a supervisor to show them what was recorded on the body camera.”
Paul said the footage was recorded on a mobile app called Axon View. He said the supervisor believed the video violated the department’s police and excessive force.
“According to our investigation, the supervisor directed an officer to get rid of the body camera so that the evidence could not be downloaded in our docking station,” he said. “A plan was then made to cover up the incident and get rid of the body cam. Based on our investigative efforts, four officers were charged.”
“Accountability is not just the word. It’s the fundamental principle of how our profession operates,” Paul added. “When misconduct occurs, we will acknowledge it, and we will confront it. To rectify this process starts with holding those responsible accountable, regardless of their rank or tenure, and it’s exactly what we’re doing. No one is above the law, and that includes members of my department and my staff.”
Paul said there are nine internal affairs investigations being conducted.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome clarified the steps that have been taken.
“The brave cave is permanently closed,” she said. “The street crimes unit has been disbanded. We have actively engaged the FBI to ensure thoroughness.”
Broome addressed the requests for Paul’s departure.
“To be clear, Chief Paul already announced his resignation two months ago,” she said. “As we stated then, he will continue to be the chief of the Baton Rouge Police Department until November. The best plan for BRPD is to have a transition to an interim or new chief who is informed and well-equipped. And I believe that Chief Paul is an integral part of that process.”
She said she disagreed with Paul’s response to metro council members at Wednesday’s council meeting, but the calls by some metro council members for Paul’s dismissal have nothing to do with the matter involving the street crimes unit.
Broome said under Paul’s leadership, the investments into BRPD have resulted in higher pay for officers and back-to-back years of double-digit reductions in homicides and non-fatal shootings.
Search for next police chief
Broome said the Civil Service Board is set to approve the police chief examination at its next meeting. After that, the Mayor-President will have two months to appoint someone.
“Between now and then, I am going to take a hard look at all the candidates to make sure that we have the right lot,” she said. “I will start the process over if I cannot find the experience, the courage, the vision, and the leadership set to address the needs we have in and out of our department. We know that we must eradicate any remnants of injustice or improper actions to clean up a culture that has been around for 150 years.”
Broome said the city needs an independent body responsible for reviewing police actions, complaints, etc., and providing a platform for residents to share concerns.
“An agency-level culture shift will be very difficult to change,” she said. “It can and will be done with diligence, time, and most importantly with consistency.”