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EBR public defender’s office ‘profoundly alarmed’ by allegations against BRPD narcotics division

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Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 1:18 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Attorneys with the East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender (OPDBR) issued a statement Tuesday, March 16 in response to recent allegations of misconduct in the narcotics division of the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) saying they are “profoundly alarmed” by the allegations and are calling for a transparent review process.

Earlier this month, four high-ranking detectives were pulled out of BRPD’s narcotics division and reassigned.

Attorneys with OPDBR say they are currently reviewing all pending cases involving BRPD’s narcotics division and are pursuing litigation on behalf of those clients.

“We are also concerned for the men, women, and children with criminal convictions where the narcotics division was involved and are now dealing with the collateral consequences of a drug conviction that may be preventing those citizens from obtaining employment, housing, or education opportunities” attorneys with the OPDBR said in a statement.

RELATED: NAACP, La. Leg. Black Caucus demand special oversight board for BRPD Narcotics Division

Officials with OPDBR say former and current clients, relatives, and concerned residents can contact admin@opdbr.org for more information on case reviews. For immediate issues, contact Deputy Chief District Defender, Lindsay Blouin, at 225-389-8886.

Here is the full statement from OPDBR:

The East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender (OPDBR) is profoundly alarmed by allegations of rampant misconduct in the narcotics division of the Baton Rouge Police Department.

After receiving a misdemeanor summons in December, Cpl. Jeremiah Ardoin authored a memo alleging that “narcotics officers routinely stopped and searched Black people without probable cause, planted drugs on suspects and coerced prostitutes into setting up drug dealers,” according to The Advocate. BRPD arrested Cpl. Jason Acree on Friday, February 26, and reassigned four other narcotics division supervisors the following week. While the Office of the Public Defender commends BRPD for announcing an investigation into this conduct, we are extremely concerned about the enduring effects of this misconduct on the men, women, and children in Baton Rouge who have been detained by this division in the past.

Violations of any citizen’s constitutional rights or civil liberties by those sworn to uphold the law erode our community’s belief in our justice system. Criminal activity by duly sworn officers calls into question the reliability and accountability of law enforcement as well as the integrity of the entire criminal legal process. Even one known instance of impropriety by a single narcotics officer demands an exhaustive examination into every case handled by that division. The reassignment of four other officers, including the unit commander, from the narcotics division to uniform patrol also requires review and investigation.

The attorneys with the Office of the Public Defender are reviewing all pending cases involving the narcotics division and are pursuing litigation on behalf of those clients. This litigation includes obtaining and investigating the disciplinary history of involved officers.

We are also concerned for the men, women, and children with criminal convictions where the narcotics division was involved and are now dealing with the collateral consequences of a drug conviction that may be preventing those citizens from obtaining employment, housing, or education opportunities.

The mission of the Office of the Public Defender is to provide the highest quality representation to those individuals threatened with a loss of liberty and unable to afford to retain private counsel. Our mission may begin at arrest, but these circumstances prove that it does not end at the conclusion of their trial. The importance of having a fully equipped public defenders’ office is never clearer than when our community learns of misconduct like that within the BRPD narcotics division. We are tasked with protecting the constitutional rights of this community. In doing so it is our job to be the check on the state’s authority to deprive citizens of their liberty.

We are honored to serve this community in that role by undertaking swift investigation, review, and litigation in every current and past case involving alleged misconduct by the State. However, this cannot be done without greater support for and collaboration with the Office of the Public Defender. Strengthening the Office of the Public Defender is essential to the robust defense of this community and a balanced, fair criminal legal system.

We are joining the call to our fellow criminal justice stakeholders to partner in conducting transparent, collaborative, and swift case review whenever there is an allegation of misconduct. We encourage the community to continue seeking accountability from our criminal justice system and demanding transparency whenever unfairness or untruthfulness is discovered in our legal system. We are committed to working together with community partners like the NAACP and other justice system stakeholders towards a more fair, transparent, and equitable Baton Rouge.

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