Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White is expected to appear before the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board on Thursday to answer a claim that he failed to discipline a police captain accused of committing perjury during a previous civil service board meeting.
“We want him to explain himself to the board, basically, and at that time we will determine whether we have some type of investigation,” Bryan Taylor, the board’s chairman, said Wednesday. “This is kind of unusual in that we hardly ever receive any complaints from the outside to do an investigation.”
The complainant, Jason Broussard, said he requested the investigation into White on behalf of “two or three police officers” who were reluctant to come forward.
“He’s done a whole lot of things that have lowered the morale of the Police Department, and they’re fed up with him,” Broussard said of White. “They’re all too scared to act because they’re worried about losing their job.”
Police spokesman L’Jean McKneely said White was unavailable for comment late Wednesday, but added the chief planned on attending Thursday’s meeting.
Broussard, who identifies himself in the complaint as a Baton Rouge resident, would not elaborate on what he called his “affiliation” with the officers. He would not say what he does for a living but said he is not a current or former officer.
In a letter to the board, Broussard claimed White was “obligated” to discipline Capt. Lonnie Lockett for allegedly lying under oath during Officer Edwin S. Beraud’s appeal hearing before the civil service board in August.
Beraud investigated a 2011 crash involving Lockett and was suspended 45 days for disobeying a supervisor’s direct order to make alterations to the crash report, according to documents introduced during the appeal.
Lockett had objected to Beraud finding him at fault in the crash and began contacting the officer’s supervisors from the scene. Lockett later wrote the chief that he had been in “total disbelief” at Beraud’s failure to ask follow-up questions and his overall approach to the investigation, the documents show.
Officer Beraud, Lockett wrote, “proved not only to be an embarrassment to me as a police officer, but a disgrace to the Baton Rouge Police Department and what law enforcement represents.”
For his part, Beraud told his supervisors his report was lacking but only because Lockett hindered his investigation of the two-vehicle crash, which happened at East Boulevard and South Boulevard near downtown.
“Due to Lockett’s aggressive and hostile behavior, officer left the scene quickly to avoid any type of altercation, especially in view of the public,” Beraud wrote in his report.
In a later letter, Beraud wrote that it would have been “unlawful” for him to change the report, adding that he was “harassed and intimidated into changing this report because of (then-)Lieutenant Lockett’s position within the Baton Rouge Police Department.”
“We are the keepers of the records, and people trust us to do our best to be unbiased and as truthful as we can, regardless of a person’s position in society,” Beraud wrote in the undated letter.
The civil service board, after a lengthy hearing, voted unanimously to reduce Beraud’s suspension to five days from 45 days.
Broussard’s complaint alleges that Chief White was present when Lockett “committed perjury” at Beraud’s civil service board hearing Aug. 16. The board listened to a recording of a telephone call between Lockett and Lt. James Attuso, in which Lockett can be heard telling Attuso he is at the scene of an accident involving his personal vehicle.
Lockett tells the lieutenant in the call that he is concerned about Beraud listing him as “vehicle No. 1” in the report, indicating Lockett had been at fault. “If that boy sends in that police report like that, I’m not going to take that laying down,” Lockett says, referring to Beraud repeatedly as “that boy.”
Lockett, who was not present in the hearing room when the tape recording was played, told the board he had been concerned with the officer’s documentation but denied calling Beraud “that boy.”
“I never called him a boy, sir,” he said.
A civil service board member asked Lockett again if he had referred to Beraud as a “boy.”
“I’m not aware of it,” Lockett responded.
In his complaint to the board, Broussard alleges that “Captain Lockett committed perjury in front of the board while testifying to the facts of a case where Lockett was involved in a traffic crash.”
Broussard alleges in a separate complaint that White also perjured himself during the termination appeal of a civilian employee.
At Thursday’s hearing, White will have the opportunity “to speak to the board and explain his side,” said Taylor, the civil service board chairman. “He may give us reasons or information that would lead us to believe that an investigation does not need to happen,” Taylor said.
Thursday’s meeting will be the second in as many months in which the board has considered a request for an investigation. The board last month rejected former Baton Rouge Police Lt. Richard K. Sobers’ request that it investigate Cpl. Chris Stewart, president of the Baton Rouge police union, regarding Stewart’s actions during the recent mayoral election, finding the request had no merit.
Advocate staff writers Robert Stewart and Ryan Broussard contributed to this report.
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