Police Dept. internal affairs investigation can proceed
LAFAYETTE — A state district judge on Tuesday dissolved a temporary restraining order requested by nine Lafayette police officers seeking to stop a Police Department investigation into a leaked internal affairs document.
The temporary restraining order was part of a lawsuit filed last week by the officers, who allege the department’s investigation is a “witch hunt.” They also allege the department has unwritten policies in place that it uses to punish officers who speak out about corruption within the department.
The leaked document was used at an officer’s termination appeal before the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the department’s investigation into the leaked document unfairly targeted the officers, violated portions of the Policeman’s Bill of Rights, and left the officers with “genuine fears of either being shot or physically assaulted or battered along with unlawful and attempted disciplinary proceedings.”
On Tuesday, 15th Judicial District Judge Kristian Earles dismissed the temporary restraining order without comment.
During the hearing, a secretly recorded audiotape of a conversation between Lt. Gabe Thompson, one of the plaintiffs, and Maj. George “Jackie” Alfred, one of the defendants, was played in open court. Thompson testified he recorded the conversation without Alfred’s knowledge, using a digital recorder disguised as a pen. The audio quality of the recording was uneven, at times understandable and sometimes not.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Stephen Spring, said after court the recorded conversation began with discussions of recent newspaper coverage involving an officer. The conversation then moved on to Kane Marceaux, another plaintiff in the case, who went to a Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board hearing in April to file a complaint about retaliation and violations of department general orders involving his transfer, which he alleges was illegal.
Spring said after court that Alfred and Chief Jim Craft were involved in the transfer.
In the recording, Alfred says: “This stuff has gotten personal, and when it becomes personal, a lot of stuff can happen; a lot of animosity, even fighting and shooting.”
After the hearing, Michael Corry, who represented the city, pointed out that Thompson laughed at least 22 times during the conversation, which Corry said further bolsters the defendants’ claims that the tape lacked evidence of any real threat.
“When Judge Earles heard the entire 17-minute recording, he found the city was absolutely right and there was no irreparable harm, damage, loss or injury,” Corry said.
“There is nothing on that tape that is threatening,” Corry said. “This isn’t a smoking gun. This is simply an attempt to stop an investigation.”
Spring expressed disappointment with the judge’s ruling, but he said the ruling does not mean the case is over.
The attorney said he is contemplating his next move, which could include appealing Earles’ decision.
“It’s a bump in the road,” Spring said after the hearing.
Tuesday’s ruling means the department can move forward with its investigation into who leaked the document, said Dee Stanley, chief administrative officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government.