THE INVESTIGATORS: Former officer arrested third time tied to potential corruption within BRPD narcotics division
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For the first time, top leadership with the Baton Rouge Police Department is publicly acknowledging the trouble raging within the narcotics division.
At a news conference Monday, May 17, Chief Murphy Paul announced the agency has launched five separate criminal investigations within the department and that former officer Jason Acree would turn himself in on new charges. New arrest warrants were cut for Acree for a third time.
Acree was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Wednesday, May 19, on the new charges. He was arrested on one count of false statements in affidavit as perjury (felony), filing false public records (felony), and one count of malfeasance in office (felony). He resigned from the force earlier in the month.
“When the public’s trust is violated, it is unacceptable,” said Chief Paul. “We will not tolerate that type of behavior.”
The chief spoke on the matter months after two officers were arrested, four high-ranking officers in the narcotics division were reassigned and allegations of wrongdoing and coverups have plagued the group. Amid potential corruption within the narcotics division, the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office has had to drop more than 700 drugs and weapons cases involving more than 120 defendants. More than 640 cases were dropped back in March and the 9News Investigators uncovered dozens more cases were thrown out in April.
MORE FROM THE INVESTIGATORS: DA drops more drug cases tied to potential corruption within BRPD
When asked how the department hopes to regain the public’s trust after such a blow to the agency, the chief says he hopes what they’ve done will speak for itself.
“What I hope is that the public sees is when we were made aware of it, we didn’t run away from it. We addressed it and that is in part why we’re here today. It’s accountability to show that we took those allegations seriously and we investigated it.”
Officer Jeremiah Ardoin resigned after being arrested. He later cooperated with investigators, blowing the whistle on other potential wrongdoing within BRPD. The allegations are wide-ranging, including stolen drugs, illegal searches, and in some cases, that officers planted evidence on innocent people.
“We’re going to acknowledge mistakes and we’re going to talk about the growth and how we move forward in that particular division,” said Chief Paul.
The chief calls the allegations troubling and he vows they will thoroughly investigate and root out any wrongdoing.
“When any officer in any department violates the policy that the vast majority of us have dedicated our lives to uphold, they prove that they were never really one of us,” Paul said.
The agency has also launched a full-scale audit of the division. They are reviewing policies, training, and body camera footage of officers tied to the narcotics division going back as far as March 2016. There’s no timeline on when the criminal and internal investigations will wrap up but the chief says those outcomes and the findings of the audit will be made public.
Months ago when Acree was first arrested, attorneys with the East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender said they were 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.
A few weeks later, Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore dropped charges against any defendant whose pending cases are linked to the two officers within the BRPD narcotics division. The number of cases stands at 640 cases.
In April, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued a statement saying the situation was “concerning to say the least.”
“If the investigation determines the allegations are true, then those responsible for wrongdoing must be held accountable. Since my time as Mayor, I have worked hard to build public trust with the Baton Rouge Police Department. I have instituted policies to improve accountability and transparency in order to close the gap between our community and law enforcement. Much of the resistance and pushback that has been publicly shown by a select few has been due to the implementation of these principles. Yet, we now see those principles at work in this case and will communicate the findings of this investigation once it is complete,” Mayor Broome said.
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