Livingston deputies arrest Walker police officer

Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday arrested a Walker police officer with a checkered past after the lawman allegedly beat a man he arrested a week ago in an alleged sexual assault case.

The officer, James Dipuma, 32, of Denham Springs, had two prior excessive force complaints filed against him when he worked for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office years ago and was fired by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office in January for conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Dipuma has since been suspended by the Walker Police Department.

Dipuma was booked into the Livingston Parish Detention Center on counts of malfeasance in office and second-degree battery in the most recent case, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Gene Higginbotham said Thursday in a news release. Dipuma later bonded out of jail.

Deputies were called July 24 to a disturbance complaint at a residence in the 22000 block of Walker South Road in Denham Springs, Higginbotham said.

Dipuma had taken Raymond Robison, 19, into custody at the home, Higginbotham said. Robison is accused of engaging in sexual acts with an unidentified juvenile.

Dipuma struck Robison several times while Robison was in custody, Higginbotham said. Dipuma also failed to stop a relative of the juvenile victim from hitting Robison after Robison had been arrested.

Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said deputies are not sure why Dipuma hit Robison, but the initial investigation shows Dipuma struck Robison and handcuffed him, then brought Robison to his vehicle and struck him again.

Dipuma then walked away, which allowed the family member to attack Robison, Ard said.

Robison was booked on counts of aggravated rape, molestation of a juvenile and resisting an officer.

He remained in jail Thursday with bail set at $150,500.

The victim’s relative, booked on a count of simple battery, has since bonded out.

The incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office.

Capt. John Sharp, a Walker Police Department spokesman, said Dipuma has been reassigned from uniform patrol to an administrative role pending an internal investigation and the disposition of the counts in court.

Sharp also said Dipuma’s authority as an officer of the law has been suspended.

Dipuma has been employed by the Walker Police Department for several months and did not have any previous disciplinary history with the agency, Sharp said.

Dipuma had two excessive force complaints filed against him while with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The latter, in September 2009, led to Dipuma’s resignation, Hicks said.

In that case, Dipuma was involved in the arrest of two suspects in an unspecified case.

One of those suspects suffered a serious facial injury and said Dipuma caused it, Hicks said.

Hicks said investigators began to question who actually caused the injury — Dipuma, or the owner of the home where the arrest happened.

Dipuma took a polygraph test administered by State Police.

He resigned from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office after the test results showed he lied, Hicks said.

The first excessive force complaint came in September 2005, when Dipuma was off duty and spotted a suspect from a case he had worked the day before, Hicks said.

Dipuma called a uniform patrol deputy, and they found the suspect in an apartment.

The suspect refused to surrender at first.

Dipuma then put the heel of his shoe on the suspect’s head and neck to hold him down while handcuffing him. Dipuma also kicked the suspect in the head.

Dipuma received a 30-day suspension without pay and was transferred from uniform patrol to communications as a result of that incident, Hicks said.

Ard, the Livingston sheriff, said he was aware of the excessive force complaints against Dipuma when Dipuma was hired.

Ard said the Livingston Sheriff’s Office decided to hire Dipuma, who tried for about three years to get a job with the agency, because administrators felt as though Dipuma had learned his lesson.

“He didn’t last long at all,” Ard said. “But again, I never had any issues with him as far as excessive force.”

Ard said he fired Dipuma in January after someone filed a conduct unbecoming of an officer complaint against Dipuma, who had been on the job for only about a year.

Ard declined to give specifics of the case, citing the confidential nature of Dipuma’s personnel file.

“At the end of the day, we all need to understand that law enforcement officers take an oath of office … to uphold the law,” Ard said. “At no point are we ever above the law.”