Civil Service panel decides not to investigate
The Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board declined Thursday to open an investigation into Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White, dismissing a claim that the chief failed to discipline a police captain accused of committing perjury during a civil service board meeting last year.
After an emotional address, White requested a 30-day continuance so he could retain legal counsel and prepare a defense against allegations filed with the board by Jason Broussard, a Baton Rouge resident who has said he acted on behalf of “two or three police officers.”
The board members, however, said Broussard chose the wrong venue for the allegations — which included perjury and malfeasance in office — as the civil service board does not concern itself with criminal charges. They voted unanimously against opening an investigation into White and Capt. Lonnie Lockett, the police official Broussard had accused of lying under oath.
“I do not believe that this board should be doing proactive investigations,” said Bryan Taylor, the civil service board chairman. “I believe that it circumvents the procedure set in place by the appointed authorities.”
Taylor added, however, that he was troubled by Lockett’s testimony during an August appeal hearing before the civil service board.
“No matter what anyone tells me from this day forward, it is my opinion that Capt. Lockett lied to this board,” Taylor said. “My concern moving forward is his credibility with this board because his integrity has been called into question.”
The civil service board also dismissed a request by Broussard that it investigate whether White committed perjury during the termination appeal of a civilian employee.
Broussard, who has declined to provide specifics about his identity and interest in Police Department matters, said in an email Thursday that he made contact with “a state law enforcement agency” — which he declined to identify — before filing his investigation requests with the civil service board. A representative of that agency, Broussard said, “advised me to take the action that I just took with the civil service board, and that if the civil service board declined to take action then he would consider opening an investigation through that state law enforcement agency.”
White declined to comment after Thursday’s vote. During the meeting, however, he defended his record, which he said had been “called into question,” as well as the performance of the department. The chief expressed dismay that some of his closest allies — whom he did not identify — had not attended the meeting to stand by his side.
“When the manure hits the fan, some guys run, some guys stand,” White said. “My resolve is strong and determined. I will not relent. I will not give up. I will not succumb, and I will not allow anyone — and I will remove anyone — that becomes an impediment of this department meeting its stated goals and objectives, and that’s treating the public fairly and the application of quality police services to everyone in Baton Rouge.”
Broussard had filed two investigation requests with the civil service board, one of which stemmed from Officer Edwin S. Beraud’s appeal hearing before the board in August. Beraud investigated a 2011 crash involving Lockett and was later suspended 45 days for shirking duties and disobeying a supervisor’s direct order to make changes to his crash report, according to documents introduced during the appeal.
Beraud’s supervisors identified what they said were numerous errors in the crash report and ordered Beraud to correct them. Beraud refused, writing in a letter that it would have been “unlawful” to change the report, and that he had been “harassed and intimidated into changing this report because of (then-)Lieutenant Lockett’s position within the Baton Rouge Police Department.”
Lockett had objected to Beraud finding him at fault in the two-vehicle crash — which happened at East Boulevard and South Boulevard near downtown — 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, the documents show.
Beraud told his supervisors his report had been lacking only because Lockett hindered his investigation of the crash. The civil service board voted unanimously to reduce Beraud’s suspension to five days from 45 days.
Broussard claimed that Chief White was present when Lockett “committed perjury” at Beraud’s civil service board hearing Aug. 16. In that hearing, 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 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 board room when the recording was played, told board members he had been concerned with Beraud’s documentation of the crash but insisted he had not called the officer “that boy.”
Taylor, the board chairman, said at Thursday’s meeting he felt Lockett “failed to show proper integrity by a captain of the Baton Rouge Police Department.”
“If someone does wrong, they need to be disciplined for it, bottom line,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or where they work.”
White told board members that he has since admonished Lockett not to use the term “boy” any more when referring to officers. “The mayor-president told me to discipline Capt. Lockett as I saw fit,” the chief said, “and I have done so.”