LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft called the actions of a group of current and former Lafayette police officers suing the city and the department “little more than a baseless and purposeful attempt to dishonor” the department and the officers who serve within it.
Craft’s comments came during a news conference Thursday morning where the chief offered his response to allegations contained within a federal lawsuit filed by a group of nine current and former officers. Craft read from a prepared statement and did not accept questions, citing the pending litigation.
The lawsuit includes allegations of police corruption, racial discrimination, payroll fraud, the manipulation of crime statistics and harassment, Craft said.
The chief referred to the plaintiffs as a handful of “disgruntled employees.”
“Time, patience and the judicial system, not sensational publicity stunts, will prove these allegations false and inaccurate,” Craft said.
Thursday’s statement came a little more than a week after Craft issued an internal memo to employees in response to the officers’ allegations. Craft told employees that the officers were using tactics that are “shameful and selfish.”
On Thursday, Craft said he wanted to reassure residents that the rest of the Police Department has continued to perform its duties.
“Let me assure you their selfish scheme is not working, nor will it work,” Craft said Thursday. “Our officers and staff are professionals who will not allow it to distract from their jobs or their professionalism.”
Craft said the officers involved secretly recorded conversations between some of their fellow officers and some of those taped conversations were played on a local TV station.
He said many within the department have questioned how an officer could do this to his or her fellow officers “without regard for their well-being or the well-being of their families.”
“Can anyone in any organization fathom the reaction of co-workers secretly recorded during perceived moments of friendly water-cooler chit-chat?” Craft said.
Craft said the officers are attempting to “undermine the confidence the people of Lafayette have in our department.”
“As a career law enforcement professional, these actions and the subsequent public airings of unsubstantiated allegations dismay me,” Craft said.
The allegations against the department first surfaced May 22 when five officers filed a temporary restraining order in state District Court seeking to stop the department from conducting an internal affairs investigation into a leaked confidential document. The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the investigation unfairly targeted the officers and violated portions of the Policeman’s Bill of Rights.
A judge later dissolved the temporary restraining order. In response, the officers joined with four other current and former officers in the federal lawsuit. Attorneys for the plaintiffs also launched a website in an effort to keep the public posted on developments in the lawsuit.
Earlier this week, Craft told members of the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board that his department is investigating 15 officers in connection with the leak.
Craft is featured prominently within the federal lawsuit, which alleges a cover-up of an incident in which the chief allegedly choked a homeless disabled man who had cursed at Craft after being arrested at Festival International de Louisiane in April 2010.
Craft credited Lafayette for having the patience to “objectively allow these ugly and false allegations to play out.
“The appropriate venue for matters such as these is the courtroom and not in the media,” he said.
On Wednesday, in response to Craft’s internal memo, Stephen Spring, an attorney for the officers, said in an email that his clients “are not disgruntled, but courageous. Their actions in no way disrespects the Lafayette Police Department.”
The lawsuit has accused the department of retaliating against those who try to break the department’s “code of silence” by speaking out against its alleged “culture of corruption.”
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