Just three months after a judge lifted a 39-year-old consent decree requiring the Baton Rouge Police Department to seek more diversity in its ranks, social justice proponents discovered emails to and from BRPD officers containing racist, vulgar language.
The uncovered communications, which were sent in 2014 and 2015, placed the city of Baton Rouge and the BRPD on their heels at a time when they hoped to move on from a devastating history of racial and ethnic prejudice that culminated in 2016 with the shooting death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers.
On Sept. 10, a collaborative composed of a Harvard University faculty member and a private law firm released emails they uncovered after a 2018 public information request seeking all uses of the n-word within communications to and from BRPD accounts.
According to a press release issued last week by William Most, a New Orleans attorney representing two plaintiffs in current lawsuits against the police department, he received a response to his public-records request in March.
The filing of the request and subsequent investigation was a joint effort between Most and Thomas Frampton, a fellow at Harvard Law School, and the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard. According to the press release, the request for the communications in question was made during an investigation by Most and Harvard not related to any legal action.
Among the collected emails received by Most were messages involving the accounts of two BRPD officers that made frequent use of vulgarity and the n-word that revealed significant hostility toward Baton Rouge’s large Black community.
“I had one f***king module left and now I’ll probably have to start over. F***king n***er,” stated one email from one of the officers to U.S. Army personnel.
Another email, this one between a Baton Rouge officer and an officer from another law enforcement agency featured a multi-sentence, grammatically-challenged, racist screed riddled with spelling errors against members of the African-American community.
“Don’t need to be sorry for nothing!!!” it stated. “My Blood is Boiling but I will kill them with kindness no n***er will ever bring me down .. Lol sorry it’s just they have Nothing better to do!! And he is like ovious married freaking titty baby motor cycle c*** s***er”. [All comments within the emails have been written verbatim, except for the censoring of the n-word and obscenity.]
Another message within the same email chain stated, “They wonder why their called N***ers!! I am f****ing PISSED!!!.”
Most told The Louisiana Weekly that since he and Frampton released the redacted emails to the public, the reaction from the community has been angry resignation at what many in the city’s Black population believe has come to be the status quo in Baton Rouge.
“People seem to be mostly reacting with anger – but not surprise – at the behavior of these officers,” he said.
Frampton said in the press release that such language and missives could directly affect the way BRPD officers investigate cases and charge suspects, especially people within minority communities. Frampton said the emails reveal a possible lack of objectivity and fairness among police officers.
“The East Baton Rouge District Attorney should have a plan in place to notify criminal defendants and their attorneys,” he said. “These sorts of emails call into question the credibility of the cases these officers have worked on.”
However, Sgt. L’Jean McKneely, a spokesman for the BRPD, noted that while the department has more than 600 officers on its roster, only two of them were found to use such language.
McKneely also said city officials on their own conduct periodic reviews of communications to and from all BRPD officers so the city can root out any such attitudes as soon as possible. He added that the discovery of the emails in question will be used by the BRPD and city as an impetus to further address racial animosity and bias among police officers and to continue to strengthen the relationship between officers and the community.
“It has caused awareness and discussion of these types of incidents,” McKneely said. “It’s an awakening that has brought these incidents to the forefront of our minds, and it makes us more proactive in our efforts to educate, No. 1, and encouraging our officers and let them know that this type of language is not acceptable in any way, shape or form.”
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Source: Black Press USA