BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As negotiations continue over Baton Rouge's contract with the police union, some terms of the current deal are raising eyebrows.
In a string of tweets over the weekend, the group Together Baton Rouge called parts of the police union contract "troubling." The contract's terms dictate that references to most complaints against officers – whether found to have occurred or not – should be "purged" after 18 months, provided there the officer receives no additional complaints during that time.
Meanwhile, allegations of more serious charges, such as sexual misconduct, harassment, and domestic violence, should stay on the record for five years. "That just seemed like that was concerning, because of the lack of transparency that that can invoke," said Gary Meise with Together Baton Rouge.
However, Sgt. Bryan Taylor, who heads the Baton Rouge Union of Police, says despite what it says in the contract, none of those records have been scrapped in recent years. He says this is due to a dispute with the media. "We aren't going by the retention for internal affairs records… since the lawsuit between the Advocate and the Baton Rouge Police Department shortly after Hurricane Katrina," he said.
Taylor says officers are often exonerated when they face complaints, but the documentation remains. He says this has set up a problem, where unfounded complaints muddy the records of officers. He wants to see those records cleaned up. "The Baton Rouge Police Department is actively pursuing the path to purge records," he said.
Meise meanwhile, says the records should be kept longer, believing transparency can only help improve community trust. The organizers of Together Baton Rouge question the rate at which officers are exonerated. Their analysis shows that between 2014 and 2016, BRPD completed investigations of 90 use of force complaints against their officers – more than any other type of complaint.
Of those, 96 percent were exonerated. "The concern there is that, also during that same time period, Baton Rouge has ranked the fourth highest in officers involved fatalities among 110 cities above a population of 200,000," Meise said.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has concerns about the contract, and is asking the parish attorney to examine it, according to Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel.
That said, Gissel says the mayor intends to extend the contract for another year, allowing the next BRPD chief to participate in the negotiations during the next round.
The current contract expires at the end of 2017.