“God is leading me towards a new chapter” | Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul resigns

BATON ROUGE — Five years after being hired to provide new leadership and restore the reputation of the Baton Rouge Police Department, Chief Murphy Paul has resigned effective November 3. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome confirmed Paul’s departure Wednesday morning.

Paul’s departure had been speculated for months. Broome says she wants a new chief in place by November and that her chief advisor, Dr. James Llorens, will oversee the process.

“Chief Murphy Paul’s leadership and dedication have brought about positive change within our police department,” Broome said in a statement. “His vision and tireless efforts have laid a strong foundation for the future. We thank him for his remarkable service and wish him continued success in his future endeavors.”

Resignation letter

In his resignation letter, Paul told his department he is retiring and that, “God is leading me towards a new chapter in life.”

Taking the helm

Paul, a veteran of the Louisiana State Police, emerged as a top candidate for the position after a series of interviews, surpassing 11 other contenders before being selected by Mayor-President Broome.

Paul’s hiring on January 1, 2018, came during a turbulent period for the city, with the department seeking to mend its strained relationship with the Black community following the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling. Paul was tasked with overseeing the disciplinary hearing for two officers involved in the incident, while also working towards healing the department after four officers were killed in an ambush attack in 2016.

During that time, newly elected Mayor-President Broome pledged to implement “reform” within the Baton Rouge Police Department. Her comprehensive plan for the City-Parish focused on promoting racial equity and inclusion throughout the local government and the Baton Rouge community. As part of this plan, she explicitly stated her intention to replace the then Chief of Police, Carl Dabadie, with a new candidate, and Paul was subsequently chosen for the position.

The anticipated leadership that many hoped Paul would bring to the department failed to materialize, resulting in his tenure as Baton Rouge’s top law enforcement officer being marred by criticism and controversy. And in the months and weeks before his resignation, Paul faced scrutiny over his hiring practices and management.

Fired, rehired & fired again

In April, UWK exposed that the Baton Rouge Police Department rehired an officer who had been fired over 20 years ago for conduct unbecoming of an officer, sexual harassment, and lack of truthfulness following two separate assault allegations.

UWK obtained internal documentation that detailed illicit assaults committed by Officer Tramelle Neldare against a man and a woman, less than a month apart. Both victims’ complaints were reviewed by the Baton Rouge Police Department’s internal affairs division and ultimately led to Neldare’s termination.

However, despite the warranted termination, Neldare was rehired by the department, raising concerns among some leaders about potential liability for the department.

Neldare was placed on the District Attorney’s Brady List, which is a list of officers with credibility issues following the investigation. This revelation led to a private meeting between several women and East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

Sources informed UWK that the mayor was unaware of Neldare’s rehiring. The day after the meeting, Neldare was placed on administrative leave, and the following day, he was fired.

“Chief (Murphy) Paul owes the public an explanation as to why this disgraced officer, who was fired for cause, was rehired by him and his administration,” said Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor turned watchdog. “I believe this reflects poorly on the Baton Rouge Police Department as a whole, and specifically on the police chief.”

Bloody Baton Rouge

According to crime statistics from the BRPD and FBI, the city’s murder rate consistently increased during Paul’s tenure. Baton Rouge gained national attention in 2020 when it ranked among the top ten cities with the highest murder rates, partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the national unrest following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Unfortunately, the situation did not improve for Paul and the Baton Rouge Police Department. The following year, 2021 marked one of the bloodiest years in the city’s history, with BRPD investigating 122 homicides, as reported by East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.

Official crime statistics for 2022 are still pending, but it is expected that Baton Rouge will show a decrease in homicides, marking the first official drop since 2019. Nevertheless, unofficial crime stats indicate that 2022 could still be one of the deadliest years on record.

Helicopter crash criticism

In March, Paul faced criticism from his department and the community for the lack of oversight of the police helicopter policy after two officers from the Air Support Unit died in a fiery helicopter crash that went undetected for nearly eight hours.

READ MORE: How did BRPD officers & helicopter crash go undetected nearly eight hours?

BRPD  Sgt. David Poirrier & Cpl. Scotty Canezaro crashed in the early morning hours following a police chase that took officers from Baton Rouge to West Baton Rouge Parish. Sources stated the chopper was turning around and heading back to Baton Rouge after the pursuit was canceled when it crashed in a cane field off S. Winterville Rd. near Erwinville. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft crashed “under unknown circumstances.” 

It was not until Sgt. Poirrier’s father became concerned about his son’s whereabouts and pinged his phone to the field that officials were alerted. 

UWK discovered that the BRPD does not have policies or procedures in place that require specialized units to check-in with dispatch. Additionally, the Baton Rouge Airport Control Tower remains unmanned from 12-5 a.m. Due to the absence of staff at the tower, there is no one tracking the pilots’ whereabouts or whether they returned to the airport. Moreover, because the Air Support Unit is a specialized unit, they are not required to check-in with dispatch.

“Clearly out of his depth”

In May of the previous year, as the murder rate reached alarming levels, the president of the International Union of Police Association penned a scathing letter calling for Paul’s resignation as chief. “He is clearly out of his depth,” stated IUPA president Sam A. Cabral. “He seldom meets with his line officers on the street and never seeks their input in addressing the violence they witness daily. He is, in fact, a politician, not a police officer. Chief Paul responds to any criticism of his decisions or leadership through harsh punitive measures directed at anyone who questions or comments on his edicts. He employs internal investigations as a weapon to silence his officers, investigations that don’t seek the truth but instead provide him with the ability to issue unfair discipline that not only hurts the officer but also their family.”

Cabral’s letter highlighted an “out of control” murder rate and partially attributed some of the issues facing the city to staffing shortages. However, Cabral argued that Paul should have done more to fight for pay increases to help retain and recruit officers.

“It is high time that Chief Murphy Paul takes responsibility, addresses his failures, seeks and encourages input from his rank-and-file officers, and convinces the mayor and the Metro Council to take action,” the letter stated.

“Thorn in his Side”

Cabral’s letter also criticized Paul for “unfair discipline,” citing the firing of Baton Rouge Police Officer and BRPD Union Vice President Siya Creel as an example.

Paul terminated Creel in December 2020 after Creel gave an interview with UWK regarding billboards that the police union had funded, which criticized the city’s high homicide rate. The billboards warned motorists to enter the city “at your own risk.” Creel appealed the termination, and the Municipal Fire & Civil Service Board unanimously ruled that Creel had been wrongfully terminated. Creel eventually resigned from the department and accepted a $90,000 settlement from the city-parish.

Paul and his administration faced persistent criticism of favoritism in discipline, resulting in a highly toxic work environment that led to a mass exodus of personnel, including early retirements and resignations.

This topic has been extensively investigated by UWK in a series titled “Disparate Discipline,” which includes retired Sgt. John Dauthier’s four investigations spanning three years under the leadership of Chief Paul and Deputy Chief Myron Daniels. These investigations ultimately forced Dauthier to retire early.

“This is a great day for this struggling agency,” said Dauthier. “Chief Paul instilled a culture of fear to enforce compliance with his misguided agenda, which speaks for itself. If you can provide me with a single metric of success that the BRPD can currently boast, better than when this man arrived, I’ll hold my breath waiting to hear it. Chief Paul’s departure hopefully marks the end of the decay of this deteriorating department.”

In 2017, outgoing Chief Dabadie stated, “My hope is that the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department will be allowed to perform their jobs according to state law, without prejudice, and that politics will not supersede public safety.”

Critics and opponents of this administration argue that Chief Dabadie’s prediction is precisely what unfolded. An excessive politicization of an agenda rooted in administrative relationships resulted in historically low morale and alarmingly high crime rates.

READ: BRPD chief asking for 3rd increase to fund lawyers, nearly 6 times what previous chiefs had

History of Service

Before assuming the role of chief of the Baton Rouge Police Department in 2018, Paul served for 26 years with the Louisiana State Police. He held various leadership positions within the LSP, including criminal investigations, special investigations, and work with the LSP Fusion Center.

Paul, a native of New Orleans, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Loyola University in New Orleans.

Throughout his nearly 30-year law enforcement career, he has received numerous commendations and awards.

BRPD does not cooperate with UWK and does not respond to emails or questions. Therefore, the BRPD has not provided a response for this report.

As per BRPD General Order 139,  Public Information Officers may communicate with authorized news media representatives which is defined as “those individuals who are directly employed by agencies of the electronic or print media such as radio, television and newspapers.” The policy specifically states that “free-lance workers in this field are to be regarded as other members of the general public unless otherwise designated by the Chief of Police.”~BRPD

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