THE INVESTIGATORS: Officer argues before civil service board that 200-day suspension violates state law

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 12:41 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 4:05 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - BRPD Corporal Ken Camallo’s team went before the Municipal Civil Service Board today to argue that a 200-day suspension levied against the officer by the department violates the law. This comes just more than two months after he was demoted in rank from a sergeant to a corporal and slapped with the suspension.

The board debated for more than an hour, at times with things getting quite emotional over whether state law was actually violated. Ultimately the board was split on the legality of the punishment and voted to send the case back to the chief for reconsideration of the discipline.

“We don’t need to hear any of this,” said Robert Moruzzi, Jr. “We have what we need in front of us. If we believe or deem that to be illegal, then we can make a motion on that.”

“I’m not so sure in my mind that there’s a violation there,” added Press Robinson. “And until I’m convinced that there is, I don’t see where I can vote to do anything other than to continue to talk about it until we can come to some kind of conclusion.”

The decision comes more than a year after Camallo and other officers strip searched a teen and his brother in broad daylight on a street in Baton Rouge. The 9News Investigators were first to air the body camera video of the incident.

RELATED: Body camera video shows BRPD officer strip search teen during traffic stop

None of the officers were punished for the strip search because the chief said no departmental policies were violated. But it’s what came later, when Camallo and other officers entered the young men’s home without a warrant that landed him in hot water with the agency. The chief said it was determined that Camallo’s actions violated several departmental policies, including conduct unbecoming an officer, the BRPD body camera policy and carrying out orders in warrantless searches. This all happened on New Year’s Day 2020 and you the taxpayer have already had to foot the bill for $35,000 paid to the family to make the federal lawsuit go away. During their internal investigation into the case, the chief said they found two other separate instances where he carried out similar warrantless searches in 2019 and 2017.

The big question was whether an officer can be suspended for more than 90 days without pay in a single year.

“I’m also asking you to take into consideration Office of the State Examiner’s opinion,” said Moruzzi.

“I don’t have that,” added Brandon Williams. “What I was given was this (document) saying this is what the state examiner said we’re going to uphold as law.”

Because the three suspensions were carried out at the same time, the board got hung up on whether the PUNISHMENT is actually a violation. Some board members argued the maximum 75-day suspension falls within the rules while OTHERS fired back that it does not. Part of the meeting got heated when one member floated the idea of overturning the ruling altogether. While some argued that was a possibility, others said it was not and that the board was simply supposed to weigh in on whether the suspension violated the law.

“The suspension on paper is 200 days or the aggregate of 200 days. Now, it was concurrent, which has never been done, and it’s not written in there that you can or can’t do it,” said Moruzzi.

“How long was he without pay - 200 days or 75 days? So, it’s 75,” said Williams.

Camallo has already served the 75-day suspension and the civil lawsuit tied to the case was dismissed earlier this year.

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