I-TEAM: Lawsuit alleges BRPD chief applicant has personal connection to suspended unit
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As two separate investigations into the Brave Cave unfold, both administrative and criminal, and the FBI has officially opened a federal investigation to sort out what happened inside the walls of the facility, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has another big item on her plate - hiring a new police chief.
WAFB’s reporting uncovered the Brave Cave, a secretive warehouse used by some Baton Rouge Police Department officers to interrogate people, and in some cases, allegedly abuse and illegally search them. Current Chief of Police Murphy Paul announced several months ago, before the Brave Cave scandal broke, that he would be stepping down as soon as his replacement is hired.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the chief this week if he would extend his stay until the investigations wrap up. He said that is not going to happen.
“No. My date that I sat down with my family and worked out is still there,” said Chief Paul.
With the clock ticking before the chief makes an exit, legal analyst Franz Borghardt calls the mayor’s decision for who will lead the agency next - and likely the bulk of this investigation going forward - crucial.
“Well I think especially now this, what’s going on, has to be part of the conversation. Anybody who’s selecting the next chief has to have a conversation with those individuals about look, this is what is being said to have happened,” said Borghardt. “How do we stop that? How do we enforce crime and stop crime while simultaneously not violating the state and federal constitution. That has to be part of the conversation.”
So far, almost two dozen candidates have raised their hand for the job and have already taken their civil service test to move forward in the process. After WAFB broke the first reports on the Brave Cave, the BRPD street crimes unit was shut down. The unit often used the Brave Cave to interrogate people, officials said. Those officers have now been reassigned.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, attorneys also allege one of the applicants for chief, Myron Daniels has a close business relationship with Lorenzo Coleman, who until recently headed up the street crimes unit.
The pair run a consulting business called Armor Consulting Group, with Daniels listed as the president and Coleman taking on the role of CEO. The lawsuit alleges that Daniels, who was over Internal Affairs before his promotion to deputy chief in 2020, personally shut down an investigation into Coleman back in 2018.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Borghardt if it raises a red flag for applicants who are found to have close personal ties to members of the suspended unit.
“I think from a legal standpoint no, they shouldn’t be disqualified based on that,” said Borghardt.
Borghardt believes with the level of attention on the case and with the feds now involved, it is unlikely that someone’s connection might jeopardize the investigation. However, he does say that the mayor should keep those connections in mind as she selects the next chief of police.
“She has to keep an eye on that. Above anything else, she has to keep an eye on that. And I think it’s going to affect her decision.”
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