The Baton Rouge Police Department has a long history of nepotism and favoritism that predates the killing of Alton Sterling. However, recent events bring to light just how difficult the work of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome will be to reform the police department that she has inherited from former mayor Kip Holden. In recent weeks conversations around the pending DOJ decision in the Alton Sterling case have heated up, with expectations that the decision is fast approaching. With this in mind a recent promotion in the ranks of BRPD are potentially problematic.
The new head of uniform patrol from the police department is Capt. Duane Scrantz. He is the son of former Capt. Calvert Scrantz. The Scrantz family name in the Baton Rouge police department is one that has produced several of the leaders in the department. Randy, and Duane both sons of Capt. Scrantz, and Melissa Scrantz Salamoni the daughter of Capt. Scrantz, the wife of Capt. Noel Salamoni and the mother of Blane Salamoni the killer of Alton Sterling. That is right, in the top ranks of BRPD, Alton Sterling’s killer has had his mother who is retired, his father who is the head of Special Operations, his uncle who is now the head of the largest division of the department uniform patrol, and his retired uncle and grandfather. So while we have been caught up on the last name Salamoni, it is really the Scrantz name that has long influenced the department.
Some would ask why should it matter? If they are good officers, so be it. The problem is, when you have Blane Salamoni, who killed Alton Sterling which caused national protest in a department where his father and uncle are in charge of giving officers orders after the DOJ decision comes down there is a huge conflict of interest. There are two scenarios here. The first is if, Blane Salamoni is charged in the death of Alton Sterling, his father and uncle are the shot callers in the police department for the response to what could be cheering from the streets of Baton Rouge. How does a father not see this as a insult? The second is, if the Salamoni isn’t charged and protest against that decision erupt in the city, the two men over the largest divisions of response are relatives of the man the community feels should be held responsible for the death of Alton Sterling. There is no way these men can completely separate themselves from the relationship they have with their loved one. It would be foolish to expect that their response not be one of some sort of anger. Yet it was the decision of the police chief to promote Scrantz at a time like this to the head of uniform patrol. It is a most insensitive and irresponsible action by Chief Carl Dabadie.
The police union will come out and praise these men as first class officers, but that doesn’t change the fact that these men are relatives of the killer of Alton Sterling and should not be in positions to call shots after this DOJ decision. Further it shows the fight that Mayor Broome has on her hands to reform the police department. There will be resentment within the ranks of leadership in this department because of the family ties that exist. Mayor Broome has said she will change the chief of police in the department, the question remains, how can change come when the ties run so deep in the department.
The next chief of police will have to fight against the ties that bind. The union that Capt. Calvert Scrantz helped to shape and some of the ranking officers he trained. These men and women are deeply connected, and if they uphold the actions seen in the video of Alton Sterling being killed, they indeed are a part of the problem. The problems in the BRPD, run deep, and must be cut out at the root in order to truly reform the department.
When the DOJ decision comes down, none of those related to Blane Salamoni should be allowed to make any decisions. They should all be placed on leave or desk duty until a understanding of the path forward is clear.