Lt. Carl Dabadie formally took the reins Tuesday as provisional chief of the Baton Rouge Police Department, swearing the oath of office and promising to continue the city’s crime-fighting initiatives through a time of transition.
“We need the community to trust in us so that we can do what we need for them,” said Dabadie, a 28-year-veteran of the department who served as chief of staff to former Police Chief Dewayne White.
The interim appointment for Dabadie will last up to three months and can be extended an additional 90 days as the city-parish searches for White’s successor. That search began last week as officials requested the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board schedule an examination for the position, a test Dabadie said he plans to take.
“I’m going to give it my best shot,” said Dabadie, who applied for the top spot in 2011 after former Police Chief Jeff LeDuff stepped down. Dabadie made a list of the top 11 candidates, but he was not named a finalist by Mayor-President Kip Holden’s advisory committee.
In an interview Tuesday, Holden said Dabadie was tapped as interim chief in large part because of his experience. Dabadie, 47, began his career with the City Police in 1985, and has served in many roles as he ascended the ranks, including motorcycle officer, academy staff instructor and academy director.
“He was the chief of staff, so that’s a person who knows the ins and outs and workings of the office,” Holden said. “We just feel he’s going to continue to move things forward, and at the same time, all he’s asking is that the people of Baton Rouge will give him a chance and he will show he’s the right pick for this job.”
Dabadie is well-known in the community for his volunteer work for the Special Olympics. In 1992, he was seriously injured while driving his police motorcycle. His father, also a police motorcycle officer, died in the line of duty in a 1984 motorcycle accident.
“I can assure you that during my tenure I will work hard in correcting any problems that may arise in our family,” Dabadie said, referring to the Police Department. “By working in the training academy, I’ve touched most every officer in this department. I feel I have earned their trust from the men and women of this department as a leader who is fair, honest and leads from the front.”
Dabadie took the oath at a well-attended ceremony in the Metro Council Chambers, which served as the setting last week for White’s contentious pre-termination hearing before Holden.
The mayor accused White of insubordination and repeatedly violating departmental policy. White, who has denied the claims, appealed his termination to the civil service board and was still awaiting a hearing date as of Tuesday, said his attorney, Jill Craft.
White was not officially terminated until last week, but Dabadie assumed the chief’s duties Feb. 6, the day White received a letter informing him of his proposed firing.
Holden said part of Dabadie’s role will be restoring morale in the department, which the mayor said had reached a low point under White.
“The morale was so bad in the department — union and non-union — that we had a department that was basically ready to implode,” Holden said. “We had to move in a (different) direction because the last thing that you need when you’re dealing with law enforcement is an officer on the street whose morale is not there, and you’ve got to make sure we don’t put artificial barriers in the way of those who are out there protecting and serving us every day.”
In addition to continuing initiatives like the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, officials said there are no plans to change a decision announced last month to add dozens of officers to street patrol by retaining new training academy graduates in the uniform patrol division.
“The only thing I’ve stressed to (Dabadie),” Holden said, “is to have officers get out of their cars, tell the people who you are, give them a card, let them know you’ll be patrolling the area.”