A collaboration between a Louisiana law firm and a Harvard Law School fellow uncovered racist emails in the official accounts of two Baton Rouge Police Department officers. The Law Office of William Most and Thomas Frampton, a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, working in conjunction with the Systemic Justice Project, found the emails in the course of reviewing BRPD’s public records.
In another set of emails, a different BRPD officer sent personal correspondence with an officer for a different law enforcement agency, believed to be a Denham Springs Police officer. Over the course of several emails, the officer from the other agency went on a racist rant which included the following: “no n***er will ever bring me down . . . Lol sorry it’s just they have Nothibg better to do !! And he is like ovious titty baby motor cycle c**k sucker” [sic] and “They wonder why their called N***ers!!” [sic]. The BRPD officer’s responses included “Sorry bout that boo” and “Yep. Bullshit…lol.”
The Law Office of William Most brought these emails to the attention of Chief Murphy Paul. Chief Paul indicated how seriously he took the issue, and said that the officers involved would be receiving a training entitled “Disrupting Dehumanization” by Dr. Rhonda Bryant. The Chief said he planned on sitting in on the class personally. The two officers are still working at BRPD. These taxpayer-funded emails, however, are disturbing in the context of BRPD’s broader struggles with race and professionalism.
For example, September 2014, a series of racist text messages sent by a BRPD officer to a civilian were published. In the messages, the officer referred both to Black colleagues and civilians with racial epithets, such as, “I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them and take them out. I hate looking at those African monkeys at work . . . I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants.” Then-Chief Dabadie stated publicly that there was no need to determine the extent of similar attitudes among other BRPD officers, because the issue was confined to the lone officer. These emails suggest otherwise.
Thomas Frampton, Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, commented, “The East Baton Rouge District Attorney should have a plan in place to notify criminal defendants and their attorneys. These sorts of emails call into question the credibility of the cases these officers have worked on.”
William Most, of the Law Office of William Most, commented: “We appreciate and respect Chief Paul’s statement of how seriously he takes this issue, and we hope that this sparks a deeper investigation into Louisiana law enforcement.”
Should officers who use this type of language referring to African American’s they are paid to protect and serve be allowed to remain in the department? Can training fix the mindset of an officer who believes calling an African American the N-word is acceptable?