TRO granted | Lawsuit: Chief Murphy Paul’s interference in Brave Cave investigation could lead to dismissal

BATON ROUGE – Discipline against the four Baton Rouge Police Department officers named in the infamous brave cave investigation is being challenged as violating their rights.

On Jan. 5, 2024, attorneys for the officers filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) to dismiss the disciplinary actions against the four BRPD officers for policy violations by former Police Chief Murphy Paul. That TRO was signed and granted by 19th JDC Judge Tarvald Smith on Jan. 10 with a hearing scheduled for Jan. 17, 2024.

The named officers are Jesse Barcelona, Douglas Chutz, Todd Thomas, and Troy Lawrence, Sr. One of the attorneys for the officers, Kyle Kershaw, told Unfiltered with Kiran that despite him filing the TRO request last week, Judge Smith gave BRPD time to file an opposition to the TRO by the end of business on Tuesday, January 9, 2024.

On Dec. 13, 2023, attorneys for the officers filed an unprecedented temporary restraining order to reschedule the disciplinary hearing scheduled 13 days after officers were notified of the hearing. Attorneys weren’t given the evidence to prepare for the hearing until Dec. 4, which was only 11 days before the hearing. 

Judge Smith granted the temporary restraining order on Dec. 20, and ordered the hearing be rescheduled for Jan. 12, 2024. 

Motion to dismiss discipline action

Attorneys for the officers filed the motion to dismiss the disciplinary actions on Jan. 5, 2024.

The court documents obtained by UWK show the officers seek a temporary restraining order and injunction against City-Parish and BRPD. 

Largely, the officers allege that BRPD violated their rights under the Police Officer Bill of Rights and its own policy manual. Those allegations include: 

  1. The administrative investigation went beyond the time limits as required by law and policy. 
  2. The initial interview of Officer Jackson was not recorded. 
  3. The administrative investigation was not timely and not conducted per the policy requirements. 
  4. Due to these alleged violations, BRPD is prohibited from disciplining the officers. 

If it is determined that these allegations are violations of law and policy, the officers may be entitled to have the disciplinary actions dropped. However, that depends on how Judge Smith rules on the motion.

Interview with Officer Jackson not recorded and other due process issues

Martele Jackson is the officer who asked for whistleblower protection and a transfer to a specialized BRPD unit in exchange for information on officers three years ago to top BRPD administration. Officer Jackson allegedly destroyed the body camera illegally. The body camera is said to have captured two officers using a taser on an arrested man to make him comply with a strip search. A street crimes officer was observed allegedly hitting the victim and causing a package of synthetic marijuana to fall from the man’s anal area.

In an internal affairs report by Sgt. Gayton Montgomery, dated Sept. 27, 2023, the report indicates that Murphy Paul received a complaint about Officer Jackson. According to those documents, Murphy Paul allegedly conducted his own investigation with Officer Jackson prior to the recorded interview on Aug. 30. This investigation included retrieval of documents and interrogation of Officer Jackson. 

Though the report indicates Murphy Paul conducted an interrogation, there is no documented recording of the interrogation. The report by Sgt. Montgomery is the only evidence showing an interrogation took place. 

Louisiana law requires interrogations of officers to be recorded in full.

Additionally, the motion states that Murphy Paul acted as both prosecutor and investigator in these disciplinary actions, which prevents him from acting as the judge. At the beginning of the investigation, the officers allege Murphy Paul should have referred the matter to Internal Affairs or another commander rather than taking the lead himself. Murphy Paul’s actions may have violated BRPD policies that require an investigation to be fair and impartial.

Kershaw explained that a chief conducting their own investigation into the discipline of officers, “never happens.”

“I just started doing this at the tail end of the previous chief. I never saw him do it. I’ve never heard of it being done. My conversations with the previous attorneys that represented the union, this had never been done,” Kershaw further explained.

Timeliness of investigation

According to the motion, Louisiana law requires a police officer investigation to be completed within 75 days. Additionally, BRPD General Order 501/95-4 requires investigations to be completed within 60 days unless there are emergency circumstances. 

An investigation is considered “complete” once the officer under investigation receives a notice of a pre-disciplinary hearing or a determination of an unfounded complaint. Allegedly, the evidence indicates that the administrative investigation began on Aug. 30, 2023, due to statements made by Murphy Paul in an interview with Officer Jackson. Murphy Paul stated that the interview was being conducted as a part of an administrative investigation. 

The officers argue that this means the 75-day deadline would have been Nov. 12, 2023, at the latest. The officers received their pre-disciplinary hearing notices on Dec. 1, which would be well after the 75-day period alleged by the officers. To be exact, the officers were given notice 94 days after the investigation began.

Finally, the officers allege that BRPD failed to appropriately document when the initial complaint about these officers was made. Meaning, BRPD could not document if it began the investigation within 14 days of the complaint as required by law and policy.

Disclaimer

BRPD does not work with UWK and does not respond to any emails or questions regarding cases. It’s why BRPD does not have a response in 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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Read More on the Brave Cave investigation

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