Little more than a year ago, on February 15, 2016, Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) case worker Kimberly Lee of Calhoun in Ouachita Parish was ARRESTED and booked into jail with bond set at $25,000.
Her crime? She was accused of falsifying entries in her case records showing she had made home visits to foster children when she hadn’t. Her agency had undergone massive budget cuts and the cuts, combined with more children entering foster care, meant an impossible caseload. That, in turn, had prompted a Shreveport DCFS supervisor to tell caseworkers that they could make “drive-by” visits to foster homes, which meant talking to the foster parents in their driveways. Policy says that workers will see both the child and the foster parent in the home, interviewing each separately.
On Thursday, the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), showing all the backbone of a jellyfish, accepted an agreement reached between Louisiana State Police (LSP) attorneys and former trooper Ronald Picou’s attorney Jill Craft of Baton Rouge.
That agreement called for LSP to rescind its letter of termination in exchange for Picou’s “resignation” for the same offense as Ms. Lee—except where her time sheet falsification was over a relative short time period, Picou’s went on for years.
And where Ms. Lee’s responsibility called for the oversight of the well-being of foster children (certainly a serious responsibility), Picou’s was for the general safety and protection of Louisiana citizens.
Nor was his caseload overly burdensome. He simply went home and went to bed after only two or three hours on his 12-hour shifts.
Craft, addressing the LSPC as if she were arguing a legal case, complete with the obligatory rhetoric, said her client was making a sacrifice for the benefit of his family and his “brothers in blue,” that he loved working “as a dedicated law enforcement officer for the better part of a decade,” and that a lot of “irresponsible reporting” had been done about Picou.
Funny, but when LouisianaVoice did a story about one of her clients winning a big court case, she never breathed a word about “irresponsible” reporting. Guess it depends on whose ox is being gored, eh counselor?
So, bottom line, Picou was allowed to walk away from his transgressions a free man. Unemployed at least for the time being, but free to accept another job in law enforcement for some city or town—or even another state agency as was the case of one terminated State Trooper who ended up policing for Pinecrest State School in Pineville.
“Irresponsible” are the actions of a man who ran a daytime construction business so he would cut his shift short by eight or nine hours so he could go home and sleep so he would be fresh when he did his day job.
“Irresponsible” are the tacit approvals given his actions by his supervisors at LSP Troop D in Lake Charles—Troop D Commander Capt. Chris Guillory and Picou’s immediate supervisor, Lt. Paul Brady.
“Irresponsible” are the sham investigations conducted first by Guillory and then by LSP Internal Affairs until LouisianaVoice published its “irresponsible” stories—backed up by Picou’s very own radio logs that repeatedly showed no activity after the first few hours of his shift. Only then did LSP conduct any semblance of a real investigation and subsequently gave Picou his walking papers. Of course he appealed his firing, which was the basis of Thursday’s scheduled hearing by LSPC until commissioners were informed of, and asked to approve, the settlement agreement. Commissioners went into executive session all of 12 minutes to discuss the proposed agreement before accepting it unanimously—and without comment.
Asked if the agreement precluded Picou’s ever working again as a police officer for another agency, commission Chairman T.J. Doss said the commission had no authority over that matter. Asked if commissioners, who had the power to accept or reject the agreement, could not have insisted on a clause in the agreement to that effect, member Eulis Simien, an attorney, reiterated the position that the commission had no authority over Picou’s future employment.
But the commission did have the authority to accept or reject the agreement. And while the commission has no enforcement authority, it certainly could have refused to rubber stamp the agreement until that wording was included.
The LSPC has evolved into a running joke with the resignations of five of seven commissioners within the past year and the forced resignation of former Executive Director Cathy Derbonne.
Only last month the commission rejected the appeal—with only member Calvin Braxton voting no—of a State Trooper who provided substantial evidence to back up his claim that he was harassed and ultimately suspended by supervisors in Troop F after he issued a traffic ticket to the teenage driver of a vehicle in which the son of Troop Commander Tommy Lewis was a passenger. For whatever reason, the commission apparently saw no reason to call in witnesses or to take statements from those involved.
The powers that be wanted the trooper punished and that was that.
On Thursday, it was determined that a Trooper who took an oath of office to serve and protect and to uphold the Constitution but who instead committed payroll fraud should be allowed to resign and walk away.
Does the term double standard carry any meaning anymore?
Perhaps it would be irresponsible to ask that.