BAKER, LA (WAFB) - The City of Baker lost nearly all of its grant money to teach school kids about drug awareness after the police officer in charge of the program simply didn't show up to any of the schools.
The officer in question is Baker Police Lt. Demarcus Dunn. He remains in charge of the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, despite having failed to teach a single DARE class during the entire fall semester. Dunn is also an extended cousin of Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn.
"We are probably like 120th cousins," the chief said in an interview last week.
DARE is a program grant-funded through tobacco taxes and is available to any law enforcement agency that applies. This year, about 73 agencies applied, and each received a portion of the money. The way it works is an agency pays for one of its officers to run the DARE program, and the grant basically serves as reimbursement, up to a certain point.
Through public records requests, the WAFB 9News Investigators obtained a copy of the Baker Police Department's grant application, which shows the department was awarded nearly $21,000 for the 2017-18 school year. It would have paid for Lt. Dunn to teach DARE courses at six different schools in Baker for ten months.
"He was getting paid to do DARE and whatever other responsibilities as a police officer," the chief said.
It was a new position for Lt. Dunn. The chief had assigned him to take charge of the DARE unit last year, replacing the now-former Baker Police officer, Willie Brooks. Up until then, Brooks had taught the program for five years. "My daily assignment was to go to the schools and teach DARE," Brooks said. "That was my full time duties everyday, Monday through Friday."
And while documents show that Lt. Dunn was the new full-time DARE officer in the fall, internal department emails tell a different story.
Lt. Dunn's supervisor, Capt. Chris Becnel, wrote an email to the police chief on March 22, explaining his discovery of the lieutenant's failure to teach any DARE classes:
The captain explained that the department's grant award would fall from $20,958 to $2,117, "a reduction of $18,841," Becnel wrote.
In his closing remarks, Becnel told the chief: "I do not know what Lt. Dunn was doing as a full time DARE officer for the Fall School Semester. He only submitted paper work today for a Spring Semester Schedule for two classes at one school."
At the time of that email, roughly three-fourths of the school year had already passed.
CHIEF CLAIMS PRINCIPALS BANNED HIS OFFICERS
The police chief admitted he was aware Lt. Dunn hadn't taught any of the DARE classes, but blamed the school principals for allegedly preventing the lieutenant from coming to the schools. "Because of politics, my officers have not been allowed," the chief said. "I took on some nasty people for this campaign and I am still feeling the after affects, and that is the truth. That's all I can tell you — the truth."
But Baker Schools Superintendent Herman Brister denied that ever happened, adding principals don't have the authority to keep DARE out of schools. "At no time during my tenure here did we say we do not want DARE as part of the Baker City School System, and at no time did I give my principals direction not to allow DARE to be on their campuses this year," Brister said.
Though Lt. Dunn failed to teach the DARE courses, he went to a DARE conference in Shreveport for five days last July at the Sam's Town Hotel & Casino. The chief explained this, saying the lieutenant went to get his continuing education credits.
The Commission on Law Enforcement says the City of Baker never actually took any of the DARE grant money that was approved, meaning Baker PD was not reimbursed for Dunn's salary. Instead, the taxpayers of Baker paid for Dunn to not teach the DARE classes.
The chief said he is not bothered by this, claiming Dunn picked up regular shift work during the times he didn't work the DARE unit. However, Brooks, the former DARE officer, disputed this. "Nobody knows where he was except the chief saying he was working on shift, which again, that's a lie," Brooks said. "He was not working on shift. If the other officers could speak out, they would tell you we did not have him as our supervisor."
Brooks explained shift work comprises of 12-hour rotating day, night, and weekend shifts. Among the records obtained by the 9News Investigators were Lt. Dunn's time sheets, which show a sudden change in his work schedule during late August when the school year started. He went from working 12-hour shifts to working 8-hour shifts. And a recent shift assignment for Baker police officers shows Lt. Dunn is not listed under any shift. Instead, he's listed under "DARE."
Brooks sees the whole situation as an example of nepotism. He said he was never given a reason for losing the DARE position he held for five years, but believes he knows why it happened.
"Take care of family member and remove Willie Brooks," he said.
In a recorded conversation between Lt. Dunn and Brooks, Dunn can be heard saying he was forced to take over the DARE position:
When the police chief was confronted with how the situation negatively impacted the school kids, he said, "I agree 100 percent, but guess what? Baker Police Department got more of than any other police department across the country? Love for the kids. We got it."