All sides involved in the federal lawsuit filed by a group of current and or former Lafayette Police Officers against their superiors and city parish government will be back in court this week.
A federal judge granted a continuance and rescheduled the hearing for this Tuesday October 16th. The reason was to allow the defendants, the police department and consolidated government, the opportunity to go over new claims in the amended suit, which was filed last month.
Back in September Judge Patrick Hanna ordered the plaintiffs to immediately remove a website they created, which contained secret recordings between some of the officers and their superiors.
The total number of plaintiffs in the LPD lawsuit has increased from 9 to 14. The amended complaint will be filed on September 20th, here are the new plaintiffs listed below:
Donald Ceasar - retired
Kencil Joseph - terminated LPD with appeal pending
Robert Polanco- Active on sick leave LPD
Gus Sanchez- terminated LPD with appeal pending
Paul Taylor Jr.-black LPD officer
The next date for possible court hearing in the federal case is expected to be September 25th, assuming the city wishes to pursue its motion to dismiss and strike after receiving the amended complaint.
Lafayette PD Lawsuit Update (9/18/12)
Monday afternoon a ruling came down from a federal judge that the attorney's representing the nine current and or former police officers suing the Lafayette Police Department and Government, must watch their professional behavior moving forward in the civil suit...
"A very thoughtful ruling I think, we believe is fair to all parties involved," says Chris Alexander, who's representing the plaintiffs.
Both sides considered themselves to have come away with something positive from Monday's ruling by U.S. Magistrate Patrick Hanna.
The first order was for the real cops versus craft website created by the plaintiffs' attorneys to be taken down immediately.
"We continue to believe that it's critically important that the public be made aware of the issues being raised," says Alexander.
Hanna said he was offended the attorney's would set up a site with secret recordings lawful or not, available for public view, that included talks of personal and private information concerning people not involved in the suit.
But, he did give them the option to put up a new and factually based site.
"Within the confines that he outlined," contends Alexander, "we will continue to have a website and continue to try and get the message out."
Hanna also felt the attorneys were using the media to harass the defense, and suggested public records requests by one of the plaintiffs, for information not directly dealing with the suit, was out of line.
"We have the right to continue to make public records requests as long as they are legitimate and seeking relevant info," explains Alexander.
The defense declined to comment, by saying they are respecting the judge's continuation of the gag order which was narrowed.
Hanna also ruled that the federal court will not intervene in any ongoing proceedings between the two sides in state court and civil service.
They will reconvene next Tuesday in federal court, where the new, amended suit, which will include five more plaintiffs will be heard.
Lafayette PD Lawsuit Update
The nine current and former Lafayette Police Officers who are suing their Superiors, namely Chief Jim Craft, and high ranking members in the Durel administration were in federal court Friday. This is the first time the two sides have met courtroom since a State District judge dissolved a temporary restraining order and threw out the officers claims. Those claims allege a corrupt, and retaliatory environment at the Lafayette Police Department.
U.S. Federal Magistrate, Patrick Hanna, was only concerned about two things in the courtroom, whether or not secret recordings by the plaintiffs put on a website by their attorneys for public viewing should remain and secondly whether or not to proceed and hear the claims in this civil suit. Hanna was more interested in if he should impose a protective order and take down a website created by attorney Stephen Spring who represents the plaintiffs. The only thing on the site currently are several secret recordings made by some of the officers in the suit, which they contend is a matter of public interest and needs to be known. Michael Corry who represents the defense said not only do some of the recordings contain irrelevant information on personal and private matters of others, but if they were to proceed into the lawsuit, it would contaminate a jury.
Spring called upwards of 15 witnesses, but only three were kept, coupled with the three called by Correy. Officers Scott Poiencot and Greg Cormier were called to the stand. The two men who were fired this week. They were asked questions about how the recordings were made and how they ended up on the Internet. The could answer the former but not the latter. At 12:30 and at least four witnesses remaining to testify. Hanna suspended proceedings until 9:30am Monday morning.
This Friday, nine current or former police officers who sued their superiors at the Lafayette Police Department and Government will be in federal court.
It's the first time since a district court judge threw out their claims back in May.
Wednesday, we learned from multiple sources that two officers involved in the suit since the very beginning have been fired. A gag order filed this week has shut the door on that information being released by Lafayette Consolidated Government.
Wednesday two officers with the Lafayette Police Department were fired.
Lieutenant Greg Cormier, who started his employment there in June of 1990, and Corporal Scott Poiencot who's been with Lafayette Police since July of 2002.
A third officer Gabe Thompson. Who is also involved in the federal suit retired today as well.
Why did this happen now, and for what reasons were these officers terminated?
The answer is we won't know until a gag order put on everyone involved in the case, including all employees of LCG is lifted.
Meanwhile, on Friday all parties will be in a federal courtroom. This will be the first time the two sides will face off in court since district court judge Kristian Earles dissolved a temporary restraining order and threw out the officers claims.
Court documents say Friday will be an evidentiary hearing. The hearing starts at nine o'clock on Friday.
Lafayette PD Uncovered (6/11/12)
We continue our look at the Lafayette Police Department.
Recently a Lieutenant with the department was investigated for alleged payroll fraud. The Durel administration cleared him of any wrong doing, but according to the lawsuit filed by 10 officers, the LPD and members of the Durel Administration attempted to cover it up.
The investigation was assigned to LCG's Human Resources Department by Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley.
The attorney representing the 10 officers claims that decision was questionable.
The payroll fraud allegations came from Greg Cormier, who is also a plaintiff in the suit. The Lieutenant is responsible for creating the work schedule for the department's downtown security detail.
Cormier claimed the Lieutenant was documenting overtime hours while he made the schedule on duty during normal hours. Cormier filed the complaint to the Fire and Police Civil Service Board on April 18.
In it, Cormier asked for the investigation to be discreet and not alert chief Jim Craft. He writes, this would peril the investigation, as well as the chief seeking vengeance against anyone associated with cooperating with this investigation.
In the finalized investigation document, Dee Stanley says it was Craft himself who requested the investigation be handled by human resources, which the federal suit says is contrary to the department's general orders.
The officer's attorneys argue payroll fraud is a criminal offense and should be investigated by either Internal Affairs, or the Civil Service board.
But days before the complaint was publicly introduced by the Civil Service Board, a conversation was secretly recorded between one of the plaintiffs and Major George "Jackie" Alfred.
"Tell Greg he better be technically sound on that. He better. I'm telling you they're preparing a defense on that already," says Alfred.
Alfred goes on to say that he never would have approved a time sheet with only hours worked.
"Any overtime slip that came across my desk that didn't have a time on it. I send it back," says Alfred.
He then claims he will get on whoever did.
"Oh, I'm gonna chap some a** when it's over with," says Alfred.
But there's a twist, the previous captain who did the same thing, his time sheet was approved by major George "Jackie" Alfred.
Over the phone Stanley said Cormier's perception of what he thought was going on was wrong, and said the investigation found the Lieutenant also worked on the detail schedule from home.
Also those interviewed for the investigation are directly responsible for approving overtime
Also, the Lafayette Police Department may have another set of investigative eyes on them soon and that possibility is coming from the highest authority in parish government.
Consolidated President Joey Durel says he would like to see another agency come in and investigate the numerous allegations being made against the Lafayette Police Department.
In an interview with TV10 Monday Durel discussed the possibility of bringing in an agency with higher authority to investigate the allegations being made in a federal law suit filed by 10 officers with the department.
Some of those allegations include incidents of retaliation by superiors and a disparate disciplinary system run by Chief Jim Craft.
Durel says with these serious allegations, it would not be appropriate for an internal investigation.
Durel says one agency he has in mind is state police, but he could request anyone from the state attorney general's office to the FBI.
Lafayette PD Uncovered (6/8)
There have been two new developments this week in our exclusive continuing coverage of LPD uncovered.
The Durel Administration has filed suit seeking to have officer Scott Poiencont removed as the police department's representative on the fire and police civil service board.
The suit alleges officer Poiencont broke departmental regulations when he released unauthorized confidential internal affairs documents. Poiencont denies the allegations.
In other action Friday the attorneys for the nine officers who are alleging systemic corruption within the Lafayette Police Department dropped off a cease and desist letter to the nine members of the consolidated council urging them to get off the fence and get involved.
The letter reminds the council of its responsibility to regulate the police department and indicates if the council fails to act each of the nine councilmen will be added to suit for failing to stop what the letter calls complicit and ongoing unconstitutional conduct.
Reached for comment Council President Jared Bellard told Eyewitness news he couldn't comment on the letter because he has yet to see a copy of it.
Lafayette PD Uncovered (6/7)
After a lawsuit is filed in federal court against the Lafayette Police Department, Wednesday another officer signs on bringing the total to 10 current and former officers with the department claiming retaliation from their bosses.
We were also able to obtain more secretly recorded conversations. The plaintiffs' attorneys say it's evidence that backs up their case of cover up during an internal affairs investigation.
The conversation involves two officers in the suit and Mark Francis who once served as public information officer.
The officer's attorneys says it contains evidence the Lafayette police department tried to cover up an internal affairs investigation involving former Major Glen Dartez.
It was recorded March 9 of this year.
Francis recounts a conversation he said he had with Chief Jim Craft about the investigation.
"I said you told me earlier on you didn't know, nobody told you. So is it not true, or you weren't told. I said man that's the stuff I have to answer," says Francis.
The suit says Craft claimed to be unaware that major Dartez was near the scene of a murder and failed to help.
"At that level. A case of that magnitude. You don't notify the number one guy in this organization. That's a problem," expresses Francis.
The document claims that a detective working the case notified his superiors, and Francis knew that.
But Craft still claimed no knowledge. Over time Dartez's involvement discovered by the media.
"This is growing, it's growing daily. We got to do something. I said Glen needs to be put on administrative leave," says Francis.
The suit further alleges Dartez was not put on leave so he could make retirement.
"I told him that. He didn't have a response to that? No that dude got red man," Francis referring to Craft.
Francis also goes on to say Craft is not a big fan of the truth.
"I tell him the truth. He gets pissed off and mad if you tell him the truth. Yea, he got upset, he stopped talking to me," says Francis.
We want to reiterate the fact that Francis is not a defendant in this case.
But this conversation will be submitted as evidence by the officers attorneys.
We also reached out to chief Craft for comment, but he did not return our call.
Lafayette PD Uncovered (6/5)
Ten officers now want to expose what they say is truly going on in the Lafayette Police Department. Tuesday, they filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming they are victims of retaliation from their superiors.
"I've never seen a more detailed complaint for a federal civil rights case," says Stephen Spring, one of the attorneys representing the nine officers.
Spring and Chris Alexander are representing nine current and former officers with the Lafayette Police Department.
"The citizens of Lafayette are really fortunate because it's an opportunity to actually see inside of the police department," says Spring.
This follows a state district court judges ruling to dissolve a temporary restraining order five officers filed against their superiors.
"We have complete confidence that in federal court we completely reach beyond the realm of local politics," says Alexander.
The 38 page document says the nine officers have been victims of reprisals, retaliation, and retribution for breaking the "code of silence".
"We have every reason to trust in the credibility of these officers who have outstanding stellar careers," explains Alexander.
Some of the punishments described in the suit range from threats to punitive transfers, even set ups.
The attorneys also cite disparate disciplinary actions by the chief of police.
Documents allege during Mardi Gras 2010, a rookie officer was suspended for five days for using excessive force against a teenager.
They fast forward to April during Festival International where the nine claim chief Craft was provoked, and then choked a one legged homeless man who was already in hand cuffs.
"There's not only no suspension, but the entire matter is covered up. I think people have a right to know that," says Spring.
So far Spring and Alexander have not produced any evidence to us. They say it is all vetted and corroborated by witness. They are currently putting it all together and will present it during the hearing.
The attorneys have also created a website www.realcopsvcraft.com where anyone can go to follow the case and look at evidence to make their own judgement.
We also reached out to LCG for comment, but they would not comment on pending litigation.
Lafayette PD Uncovered Update
It's the latest in our continuing coverage of a story we broke last week. Tuesday, a district court judge says there was no clear evidence to back up a temporary restraining order that was granted to five officers with the Lafayette police department.The officers claimed they didn't feel safe and feared retaliation from their superiors after filing the lawsuit and subsequent restraining order.
District court judge Kristian Earles threw out the temporary restraining order because he felt that the evidence put before him had no substance. "All he needed to do was listen to the entirety of the tape, which he did and found the city should prevail," says Michael Corry in front of the Lafayette Parish Courthouse.
Corry represented LCG in the case. On Tuesday judge Earles sided with LCG and the Lafayette police department by terminating a temporary restraining order against Major George "Jackie" Alfred, chief Jim Craft, and chief administrative officer of the Durel administration Dee Stanley. "Disappointed in the judges ruling, but it's not over by a long shot," expresses Stephen Spring the attorney representing the five officers.
In a hearing that lasted about two hours,no defense witnesses took the stand and only one piece of evidence was entered. "The recording, which was their smoking gun, found there was no irreparable harm," says Corry. Corry is referring to a secretly recorded conversation on April 19th, between major Alfred and officer Gabe Thompson, one of the plaintiffs. We were able to obtain that recording last week. "When things get personal a lot of stuff can happen. A lot of animosity, hell even fights and shootings," says Alfred in the recording. "This is supposed to be a member of the administration that sets the example for the police department. The tape speaks for itself," says Spring.
But Corry argued that specific phrase was taken out of context, and says during the conversation Thompson laughed no less than 22 times, which he claims showed there was no significant threat. The entirety of the 17 minute conversation was played in the courtroom. Corry wraps up saying, "Their claim was completely baseless, meritless, and did not warrant to be brought."
Judge Earles also felt the remaining complaints in the lawsuit, which now contain nine officers should be heard by the fire and police civil service board. Spring says the will continue their fight and will look for other venues and avenues to pursue it.
Lafayette PD Uncovered 5/25
Earlier this week five Hub City police officers filed suit against members of the Durel Administration and their own police department. Now four more officers have chosen to join the law suit against members of the Durel Administration and their own police department claiming that as members of that department they too have been and are the victims of retaliatory action by their superiors.
Lafayette PD Uncovered 2/24
We continue our story of the five officers with the Lafayette Police Department who are suing the department and have also filed a temporary restraining order against their superiors. New information has surfaced that indicates previous threats against the five officers filing suit are being carried out.
Lafayette PD Uncovered 2/23
A restraining order filed by five officers with the Lafayette Police Department against Chief Jim Craft and Chief Administrative Officer of the Durel administration Dee Stanley has been signed by District Judge Kristian Earles. Tuesday those officers also filed a lawsuit against LPD. In our investigation, LPD Uncovered, we were able to obtain hours of secretly recorded conversations that back up those claims. Now we're questioning if Lafayette is safe as we think it is
The attorney representing the five officers contends in the lawsuit the current administration has been engaged in a policy and practice of widespread deception and disinformation.
As proof they point to secretly recorded tapes obtained by Eyewitness News. Tapes the officers contend will help shed some light on how crime stats were allegedly manipulated to reflect a safer Lafayette.
"If we code them right we'd be 10% down," says Dwayne Arceneaux, a former captain at the Lafayette Police Department.
This conversation between one of the officers in the lawsuit and Arceneaux, was recorded before he left the department.
According to the petition the discussion concerns how the department has changed or altered crime stats in the city. In the recording Arceneaux starts by joking about pats on the back the department has received for doing a good job fighting crime.
"We started changing them that's the decrease. I don't know what the f*** they talking about we doing such a great job. M****** f***** we revising the codes," says Arceneaux.
Based on the recording Arceneaux appears to enjoy the fact the his superiors are able to take pride in the lower crime stats.
"If that lets them sleep at night. If that allows them to sleep better at night. Who am I," says Arceneaux.
Then Arceneaux goes even further, saying more stats need to be changed, but the department's administration remained cautious.
"We not revising enough of them to where they actually supposed to be. Because they paranoid about revising the code," expresses Arceneaux.
Arceneaux gives examples as to how the codes are changed. For instance he gives the example of a crack deal which turns into a robbery.
"Especially if there's nothing nothing to support it. If you ain't busted in the head or some s*** like that you know. Come on," says Arceneaux.
So aside from some good publicity what does the department have to gain from allegedly manipulating crime statistics?
Well, crime stats determine where and how many police officers patrol a certain area. They also play a role in determining where and how many crime prevention programs are held.
And because crime rates figure into the decision making process for potential new businesses and industry one could argue there is an economic benefit to be gained from lower stats.
We contacted Arceneaux for this story he explained changing codes is a part of the process when they use their crime reporting program Comstat.
Arceneaux also says Comstat reports are more comprehensive than in the past. As an example Arceneaux says reports made by a rookie or patrol officers can sometimes be changed by their superiors to accurately report the crime if mistakes were made.
Lafayette PD Facing Lawsuit and Restraining Order
Imagine working in a job environment where you worry about fellow employees not only not having your back but aiming at it!
That's how one of five Hub City police officers told Eyewitness News he feels every day when he walks into the Lafayette Police Station.
It's also why the five officers who in addition to filing suit against the department have also requested the protection of a temporary restraining order against members of the Durel Administration and the police department they fear could be out to hurt them for daring to come forward.
The lawsuit claims it's corruption, cover up, and outright misuse of power that goes all the way to the top of the Lafayette Police Department, and as high up as the heavy hitters in the Durel Administration. But they hope this lawsuit will bring all of it to an end.
"Nobody's above the law including the administration," says Stephen Spring, the attorney representing the five officers.
Tuesday five officers with Lafayette Police filed a lawsuit against the department. It claims corruption, cover up, and abuse of power by high ranking officers including the chief of police, but they have secretly recorded conversations that display just that.
According to the petition filed on Tuesday Major George "Jackie" Alfred was recorded earlier this year discussing how he was going to move around four of the five officers in the suit for trying to air out the department's dirty laundry.
"It's coming. They can say it's retaliation. They can say whatever they want to say. I think it's for the good of the department," says Alfred in conversation recorded April 14, 2012.
He later says he will file a complaint against one of the officers in the suit who questioned Alfred's motives in a fire and police civil service meeting.
"I'm pushing for some disciplinary action, because you can't go and discredit people in the public forum and just walk away from it," says Alfred.
There are multiple recordings with hours of conversations. The lawsuit claims that the present administration has engaged in a policy and practice of widespread deception and disinformation to the news media about police events of public interest which has significantly brought down morale. One recording includes Sergeant Mark Francis who once served as public information officer for the department, boasting about how he would manipulate the media.
"How that's gonna intimidate me. I don't give a s*** if we right or wrong. If you put a mic in my face, I'm gonna have the people on our side," says Francis in a conversation recorded February 12, 2012.
He then recounts a conversation he claims he had with Chief Jim Craft during the Glen Dartez case.
"I don't know how you want somebody in the civilian world to buy you didn't know this s*** went down and you didn't find out until Monday. I don't buy it," says Francis.
Not only was a lawsuit filed, but a restraining order that specifically names Major Alfred, Chief Craft, along with Chief Administrative Officer of the Durel Administration Dee Stanley.
Kane Marceaux is one of the officers in the suit who told Eyewitness News Tuesday he doesn't feel safe working alongside fellow officers inside the police station.
"Thats a problem if you go to work and don't feel safe," explains Marceaux.
But, Marceaux says he and the other four officers had to bite the bullet to make things right at the department.
"If someone's not willing to step up and voice their concerns as to what's going on then nothing ever is gonna get accomplished," says Marceaux.
We reached out to both Chief Craft and the Durel Administration, but they both said they will not comment on future litigation.
Also, since this story has come out more officers have expressed their want to join in the lawsuit.