I-Team: Hair-pulling cop has checkered past

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Sgt. Robert Schilling, the Baton Rouge Police sergeant who pulled a woman by her hair from a ditch, has a checkered police past.

Melinda Morris, the woman whose hair was pulled, has always said she's the victim, but now the police department is defending itself, and moving forward with charges against Morris. The matter may soon reach Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's desk. Morris says Sgt. Schilling should be fired after he grabbed her by her hair and pulled her from a ditch along Nicholson Drive. It happened after a motorcycle accident in September.

"It made me feel like I was trash and I'm not trash," Morris said.

Police Chief Dewayne White has said the video obtained by 9 News and shot by a passerby only tells part of the story. White declined to speak on camera, but says police dashboard video allegedly shows Morris hitting Sgt. Schilling at least three times before he grabbed her.

"If you take a five second snippet out of a five minute event you can certainly perceive things out of the context in which it occurred," Charlie Dirks, Schilling's attorney said.

The police department will not release the video, citing an ongoing criminal investigation involving Melinda Morris.

"I've asked for it, you've asked for it. Everybody I know has asked for it and they haven't come forward with it yet, so I'd like to see it," Eulis Simien, Morris' attorney said.

Morris filed a federal lawsuit against Schilling, but his attorney, Charlie Dirks says Morris is the one who should be charged. Baton Rouge City Prosecutors recently filed a motion, asking to recuse themselves, citing a conflict of interest. They are representing Schilling in the federal case filed by Morris, and want Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's Office to take over the criminal prosecution of Morris. A judge is still considering that motion.

As for Schilling, the hair pulling incident is not the first complaint on his record. Back in February of 2007, records show Baton Rouge Police internal affairs investigators conducted surveillance on Schilling following a request from his supervisors, who said he was not spending enough time at work as a homicide detective. The specific allegation was that he was spending most of his shift at an unidentified woman's house.

A memo obtained by the I-Team alleges Schilling was at the woman's house more than half of his 40 hours of weekly duty but put down on his time sheet that he was working. When confronted by investigators and asked why he was spending so much time at the woman's residence while on duty, he allegedly stated that he thought it was "Better than sitting at his desk at work playing on the Internet."

A 15-page investigative summary says Schilling was not only spending time at the woman's home, he was also accused of confronting a suspected drug dealer, who owed the woman money. Schilling was asked if it was appropriate for him to have a discussion with the suspected drug dealer about a dispute over money. Schilling stated: "Well, I don't have a good answer for that."

A disciplinary hearing was set for April 17th, but never happened. Schilling was instead allowed to sign an agreement admitting to most of the allegations and admitting "his conduct described raises serious questions about his judgment and competence."

He was suspended without pay for 84 days and had to give up 19 hours of vacation leave to make up for time missed. Schilling was then re-assigned from homicide to street corporal.

"He made a mistake at one point in his career. He paid his price but it had nothing to do with his work product or dealing with the public," said Dirks.

In May of this year, Schilling was again investigated for refusing to send an officer to a woman's residence to take a report on her stolen purse and telling her she had to file the report at the station. He admitted telling the woman "This is not Burger King and you can't have it your way." He was later cleared in that complaint.

A police spokesman says Chief Dewayne White plans on taking disciplinary action against Schilling, however, the specifics are still being worked out. The I-Team asked to speak directly to Sgt. Schilling, but his attorney declined on his behalf.

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