BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge police officer was fired Tuesday for an interview he gave about controversial billboards earlier this year.
The officer contends he was representing the police union in that interview, and not acting in his official capacity as a police officer. The department contends, since the officer was wearing his badge and uniform, it was hard for the public to determine whether he was speaking on behalf of the union or the department.
The online report focused on controversial roadside billboards being placed around the city. The billboards, paid for by the police union, criticized the Baton Rouge Police Department and warned motorists to enter the city “at your own risk” because of the city’s high homicide rate. Siya Creel, a 5-year member of the force, was interviewed for the YouTube piece about his support for the billboards.
In firing Creel Tuesday, BRPD Chief Murphy Paul said Creel failed to comply with “policy, procedures and Departmental regulations.” Creel’s termination paperwork, obtained by the 9NEWS Investigators, says that was terminated because he did not receive “proper authorization from Chief (Murphy) Paul’s office or the BRPD Public Relations Division to participate in an interview that would lead the general public to believe that you were representing BRPD.”
The termination paperwork says that Creel was wearing his BRPD badge, his department-issued Glock 17 duty-weapon, and his patrol uniform during the July 2020 interview.
The department opened an internal affairs investigation into Creel shortly after the video was posted. “My review of IA file number 023-20 reveals that your conduct falls below the standard behavior of both a Baton Rouge Police Department employee and a police officer,” Paul wrote in the memo. “Accordingly, for your actions, your employment with this department is terminated.” The paperwork says Creel is accused of conduct unbecoming an officer, unauthorized public statements and carrying out social orders (social media). Creel has 15 days to appeal his termination to the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
Creel filed suit against BRPD earlier this month over the internal affairs investigation, claiming it violated his “clearly established rights of Free Speech.”
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