BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Two Baton Rouge Police Department officers had to undergo sensitivity training after emails surfaced showing they both sent taxpayer-funded emails littered with racist and expletive-filled rants.
The emails, laced with heavy usage of the n-word, show the flat out hate-spewed speech in separate conversations involving the two officers and all of it is paid for on taxpayers’ dime.
"What we see is very problematic,” said attorney, William Most. “We know that racism in law enforcement is a problem, and so seeing these emails in real life corroborated that and made it real.”
One of the emails, sent back in 2014, is between a BRPD officer and a member of the U.S. military. It shows the officer appearing to complain about training, saying, “I had one f**king module left and now I’ll probably have to start over… F**king n-word.”
In a separate email, sent in 2015, a different BRPD officer participated in a hate-fueled rant with an officer from the Denham Springs Police Department, believed to be his wife. That officer sent, “My blood is boiling but I will kill them with kindness. No n-word will ever bring me down.”
The response from the BRPD officer read, “Yep, bulls**t. I gotta get to bed. I have to get up early.”
Both of the racially insensitive emails, sent on the clock using Baton Rouge tax dollars, were uncovered by Most and Thomas Frampton, a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School in conjunction with the Systemic Justice Project.
“I think it’s a great question for the Baton Rouge community to ask whether these are the kinds of people that they want representing them as law enforcement officers," said Most.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked if the emails were paid for by Baton Rouge taxpayers, how can the department adequately explain their contents to African American taxpayers who live in the communities serviced by BRPD?
“Yeah, that’s a good question,” said Most. “I mean, if I were living in Baton Rouge and I were African American, I would certainly wonder whether this person truly represents me as a law enforcement officer.”
BRPD Deputy Chief Jonny Dunnam says the department launched a swift investigation into the matter, choosing to take complete ownership of the situation. He tells WAFB it was important for the chief to show just how seriously he took the issue.
“Obviously, we don’t want to see our officers using that type of language at all or any type of derogatory language,” said Dunnam. “One of the issues he [the chief] wanted was to change the culture of the Baton Rouge Police Department and I think this was a step to help change that.”
Issues with race have popped up one way or another several times throughout the history of BRPD, within tensions boiling over back in 2016 after two officers shot and killed Alton Sterling outside of a convenience store. That incident sparked days of protest and unrest in the Capital City. Just a few short years later, the decision to fire one of those officers was overturned, leaving the department’s police union at odds with Chief Murphy Paul over his choice to publicly apologize for what he considered a misstep by the agency. While some praised the move, critics say the chief went too far and did not support the officer involved. Despite which side of that argument folks fall on though, this attorney believes one thing is clear: it seems the department somehow keeps finding itself in the middle of racial issues.
“Until this police department grapples with the way it needs to treat its citizens, I don’t think it will get better,” said Most.
“I think we’ve turned a page,” Dunnam said. “I think our officers know what’s expected of them and that they plan on not doing that again.”
Just recently, allegations surfaced that white officers at BRPD were being discriminated against and punished at a higher rate than black officers. The chief was quick to dismiss that, and Dunnam says the numbers just do not support those claims.
"There's no bias in the way we discipline officers,” Dunnam added. “Officers are disciplined fairly across the board and I think the stats bore that out."
Months before that, the department was also caught up in national headlines over a 25-year-old department yearbook that showed officers within the agency donning blackface. The chief again apologized at the time and asked the community for patience as the department continues to navigate issues of race.
For this latest string of racist emails, Dunnam says the officers involved have already completed mandatory sensitivity training the chief himself attended.
“The officers went through that training and have completed that training and we’re moving forward at that point,” said Dunnam.
Dunnam points out the released emails are old and while troubling, tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter it’s an isolated incident and not a reflection of BRPD.
“We have great officers that work for us, but officers make mistakes and that’s what happened in this case,” he said.
The attorney says he still has questions about that stance on the issue.
“How many isolated incidents do you have to have before it becomes a clear pattern?” he asked.
Federal officials recently lifted a decades-old consent decree from the department which for years called out the force for not hiring enough minorities to reflect the diverse communities they serve.