BATON ROUGE — The East Baton Rouge Metro council meeting had no shortage of fireworks Wednesday night as council members asked for the Baton Rouge Police Chief to step back from his role a month before his retirement amid an FBI investigation.
The meeting was about the “brave cave” with council members requesting BRPD Chief Murphy Paul to come to the podium to answer questions.
Councilwoman Jenn Racca asked her colleagues to stand up if they remembered about the settlement with Troy Lawrence Jr. months ago, but they couldn’t do anything about it. More than half the council members stood up. Councilwoman Racca said to the public as council members, their hands are tied and they can’t force officers off or onto the force.
Councilman Aaron Moak then spoke, requesting Chief Paul to “step back for a while” during the FBI investigation as well as an internal affairs investigation into officers connected to the “brave cave”.
“For the transparency of the whole department, you’re the top police chief, would it not behoove us for you to step back to make it more transparent is what I’m trying to say,” said Councilman Moak.
Chief Paul was requested to respond but fired back personally calling out and pointing at Councilmembers Moak and Racca. He specifically called out Councilwoman Racca for denying his money for his legal defense and lawyers to fight internal affairs investigations.
Part of Chief Paul’s response was:
“When the former chiefs of police sit down and share pictures of me and my girlfriend, I prayed for them. Where were you Moak? When they went to Texas to the camp, they called me a n**** when I was trying to become reform in this police department, where were you then speaking up for them? Don’t sit here and play like you don’t know about this group of body that tried to force the mayor to sit there and fire me for lies and say I only discipline white folks, which is a lie. Don’t pretend like you don’t know that (pointing to Councilman Aaron Moak). Don’t pretend like you know that (pointing to Councilwoman Jenn Racca). I’ve been quiet for 5.5 years but after Nov. 8, I’m not going to be quiet no more. I been praying for y’all. You think I don’t know the back door meeting y’all have with these people and you sit here like you some….come on now.”
Councilwoman Racca doubled down on the request to get the chief to step down saying, “That was the most unprofessional display of someone that is in administration that I have ever seen.”
Questions came up on how Troy Lawrence Jr. was allowed to be on the street crimes unit, where he’s accused of using the brave cave, also referred to as a “torture warehouse” in a recently filed federal lawsuit. Chief Paul responded that the officer’s father, Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence Sr. put him in that division and that was why he had placed his father on administrative leave as of this morning. Councilman Dwight Hudson asked in response that Troy Lawrence Sr. was no longer over that division so how could he have placed his own son there. The chief responded that Troy Lawrence Sr. asked for his son to be put in that unit. However, the chief must sign off on any moves any officers make within the department.
Baton Rouge Police Union Responds
It is incumbent on us, on behalf of our members to address some of the accusations, allegations, and inferences made by Chief of Police Murphy Paul at the Metropolitan Council Meeting on 9/27/23.
First and foremost, regarding the funding for additional attorneys to defend the findings of the chief in disciplinary hearings, the union has no say in the matter. The union will say that when this chief brings a great many disciplinary actions, he always has at disposal, numerous attorneys from the office of The Parish Attorney. If the council chooses to deny additional funding, that is at their discretion.
In relation to disciplinary measures, the chief mentioned 14 terminations and 8 resignations under investigation. It is unclear how many of those terminations have been reversed or are still under appeal to the Municipal Police and Fire Civil Service Board.
With regard to the accusation, that the council has “stacked” that board, with members who have close relationships with The Union, here is the truth: there are 5 members. By statute 1 one is elected by the officers of BRPD, one by BRFD, then one nominated by LSU, one by SU, and one by The Mayor and Metropolitan Council. The only member that could have a relationship with The Union is the person elected by BRPD. The Union has no close relationship with any of the other members. By way of information, one member who has a relationship with the administration, is currently under indictment for 4 felonies.
Regarding the assertion the the Civil Service Board often overturns Chief Paul’s disciplinary measures, that is their job and finders of fact and of law, and they follow their own process independently.
Finally, regarding the allegations of “back room” meetings with lawmakers, and the charge of a meeting at “a ranch in Texas” where Chief Paul said he was disparaged with racial slurs: we know nothing about this alleged meeting in Texas, nor have we participated in any such activity. We do, however, meet regularly with local and state elected officials, often at their request, to convey concerns from our members, and to listen to their concerns as lawmakers. These meetings are part of our obligation to our members, and to the public.
We, as a union have an obligation to defend our members from all allegations and to insist that the procedures employed will be thorough, fair and unbiased. We also feel compelled at this juncture to hold Chief Paul to the standards of conduct and professionalism that he would hold any of us to, which certainly, and unfortunately was not in evidence last night.
We hope this statement will allow you to better evaluate, and investigate, the statements made in the heat of the moment yesterday.
-Baton Rouge Union Of Police, Local 237