Photo of BRPD officers wearing blackface comes to light, local leaders respond

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BATON ROUGE, La (LOCAL 33)(FOX 44) – An old photo dated back to 1993 shows BRPD officers wearing blackface. This incident is one of several cases happening across the country.

Both Chief Murphy Paul and Mayor President Sharon Weston-Broome have released statements following the news.

Chief Paul statement reads:

“The Baton Rouge Police Department was made aware of a post circulating on social media in which two Baton Rouge Police Officers are dressed in blackface. According to the post, the pictures are from a Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook. A preliminary review of the matter indicates the officers were working in an undercover capacity during a department-approved operation when the photos were taken. The Advocate published a story about the operation on February 22, 1993.

Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive. They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today. The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs.

The photographs in the post were taken more than 25 years ago. Administratively, the department cannot apply existing policies to conduct that happened before the policies were in place. Policies that were existing at the time of the behavior would have to be applied. The department is bound by the Louisiana Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which places a timeline on administrative investigations related to officer conduct.

Today, we would not allow our officers to wear blackface in an official capacity under any circumstances. We have policies in place to prevent our officers from engaging in this type of behavior both on and off-duty.

Our BRPD Training Staff recently returned from Oakland Stockton, California where they received training on Procedural Justice Policing. The Procedural Justice Program will be part of the training academy curriculum for new BRPD officers, as well as our annual in-service training for all Baton Rouge Police Officers. The Baton Rouge Police Department is diligently working to apply 21st Century Policing best practices and standards to our agency.”

Shortly after, Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome said: 

“It has come to my attention that a photo circulating on social media depicts Baton Rouge Police Department officers wearing what appears to be blackface during a department-approved undercover operation which took place in 1993. While this may have been department-approved 25 years ago, that does not make it right.

Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation.”

Eugene Collins, the President of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the NAACP, all it takes for this to end is to have a conversation and educate yourself.”

“We have to find a better way to educate [people] on African American culture and some of the negative things that went along with that over the years,” said Collins.

The men in the photo are reportedly Lt. Don Stone and retired Cpt. Frankie Caruso.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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