I-TEAM: Mayor discusses Brave Cave, ‘torture warehouse’ impact on police chief search after finalists approved

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome(WAFB)
Published: Oct. 6, 2023 at 6:10 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For the first time Mayor Sharon Weston Broome confirmed she will not consider anyone who is investigated for misconduct tied to the Brave Cave to take over as chief of the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Broome met briefly with the WAFB I-Team just hours after practically every candidate who applied to be the new chief of police was pushed forward to the interview phase of the search. The mayor was unable to take part in the search process before the Municipal Civil Service Board approved test scores for the candidates, which happened earlier Friday.

The mayor has only 60 days to interview nearly two dozen candidates, review their job histories, investigate any red flags in their backgrounds, and appoint a new chief.

“I believe that it means that I have a lot of work to do in the next 60 days,” said Broome.

Broome says her ideal candidate will be committed to transparency and will have experience reforming police practices.

Her spokesman explained that the quality in the current chief of police, Murphy Paul, that best reflected Broome’s own leadership style is his commitment to creating change. She recently called Paul one of her best hires.

Broome added that the new chief of police must possess that same quality and also excel at building trust among the officers in the department and in the community.

The mayor also spoke candidly about the impact the Brave Cave investigation has had on the search for a new police chief.

Broome and current chief of police Murphy Paul are weathering a federal investigation and criticism from community members after the WAFB I-Team first shed light on the Brave Cave - an off-the-books interrogation site used by some BRPD officers to interview suspects. A federal lawsuit was filed by a man who claims he was taken to the site, held for hours, and then strip-searched illegally.

After the first I-Team report exposing the Brave Cave, Broome announced that the parish-owned facility would be permanently closed. She also disbanded BRPD’s Street Crimes Unit which operated at the site.

More recently, the investigation into the Brave Cave resulted in the arrests of four officers including deputy-chief Troy Lawrence Sr. who allegedly conspired to cover up a beating by officers at the nearby first district precinct years ago.

Because several candidates applying for chief have high ranks at BRPD, the WAFB I-Team asked the mayor if 60 days is truly enough time to dig into their backgrounds and uncover any ties to the Brave Cave or other wrongdoing.

“It is my goal to do a very thorough investigation on each candidate. In light of recent developments and circumstances, I would be remiss if we did not do a deep dive,” said Broome.

Broome clarified that she would hire an interim chief to fill the role if her search extends past early November when Paul retires.

She also doubled down on her previous promise to restart the search if she is unhappy with the candidates who’ve made it this far in the process.

Last month Broome stood next to Paul at a televised press conference and said, “I am going to take a hard look at all of the candidates to make sure that we have the right person. I will start the process over if I cannot find the experience, the courage, the vision, and the leadership set to address the needs we have in and out of our department. We owe that not only to you the people - you the people who I am accountable to - but to every single Baton Rouge police officer who wants to lead with honor and strength shoulder to shoulder with the finest of officers.”

On Friday the mayor said she stands by those statements.

When asked how important it was for the new chief to be able to rebuild the relationship between BRPD and external groups like the Metro Council and Union of Police, Broome’s spokesman said the relationship does not need repairing.

Broome added that she has an open-door policy for anyone who wants to meet to settle issues within her administration.

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