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Archive for the ‘State Police’ Category

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.

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Col. Mike Edmonson is gone. The good troopers in the Louisiana State Police (LSP) can breathe a sigh of relief. Although gone from LSP in quick fashion and in a manner that is not altogether typical of an honorable retirement, he leaves LSP with some cleaning up to do.

Trooper Ronald Picou was terminated from Troop D for numerous violations of LSP policy. The investigation was initiated by LSP after LouisianaVoice published an article about Picou (https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/).

Picou ended up being terminated for things like sleeping on duty, lying, and performing tasks in his patrol vehicle while on duty for his private business.

In 2013, by anonymous letter to Internal Affairs from another active member of LSP, Picou was reported for being absent from duty (Payroll Fraud). According to sources who worked with Picou and who audited radio logs, Picou wrote citations for the first 1-3 hours of his 12 hour night shifts and on average, less than half of his 12-hour day shifts. He was reportedly receiving over half of his paycheck in this manner for the better part of a decade.

IA passed that investigation on to the now discredited former Troop D commander, Chris Guillory. Guillory found Picou did nothing wrong in an investigation that seemed more focused on finding whistleblowers.

Picou knew then his fellow Troopers did not approve of his activities. He had to make a choice. Guillory’s clearance of Picou emboldened him to reportedly continue his activities while under the immediate supervision of two of Guillory’s friends, Jim Jacobsen and Paul Brady. Picou’s absences went unchecked until troopers reached out to LouisianaVoice.

In an effort to confirm the reports, LouisianaVoice sent a public records request for Picou’s time sheets and the radio logs to conduct an audit. Realizing what the records would divulge, IA attempted to defuse the issue by finally initiating an investigation.

Picou was still absenting himself from duty which could have been investigated with a simple surveillance operation or a departmental vehicle tracking device. Instead, they notified Guillory who reportedly went on the warpath. Picou was finally terminated. The evidence found in the internal investigation was overwhelming.

IA found 50 days of zero activity although Picou was paid for the entire shift. IA ignored virtually every other day where Picou had some activity at the beginning of the shift but nothing after two or three hours. Sources who conducted radio log audits reported there was much more time of inactivity than that identified by IA.

IA did not document nor did IA investigators even bother to interview Picou for an explanation of his absence from duty. Seriously? What kind of Inspector Clouseau investigation is that?

LSP stacked on the violations. Not for payroll fraud but for things like not remaining logged on to his computer for the entire shift, lying, and sleeping on duty.

By nothing short of investigative blindness or influence by Edmonson, the investigation did not find Picou violated the law. The elements of the offense were met based on the information in the investigation file.

Picou got what he deserved in his termination but we believe he should have been arrested for his public payroll fraud as was a Department of Children and Family Services inspector who was accused of falsifying her time sheets. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

Can you see a double standard here?

Because of his obvious egregious behavior, Picou posed a liability and had to be sacrificed. Why did LSP ignore the criminal aspect of the investigation? Because they could not pursue the payroll fraud without also pursuing some of the Troop D clique: Chris Guillory, Paul Brady, and Jim Jacobsen.

Jacobsen and Brady supervised Picou during his constant absences while hard-working Troopers had to pull his weight. According to sources, Picou would not help other Troopers.

At a time where law enforcement is getting more and more dangerous, this is an ultimate betrayal of his brothers and sisters in blue. Brady and Jacobsen were either incompetent supervisors or they had to approve of Picou’s actions. Guillory further approved based on his joke of an investigation in 2013.

LSP produced no documentation indicating they investigated obvious supervision deficiencies by Jacobsen, Brady, or Guillory.

Payroll fraud applies to those who steal time and who allow others to steal time. If they knew he was doing it and they damn well should have, they are criminally culpable as well. We believe Edmonson, true to form, protected his friends and ignored that aspect of the investigation. According to our public records requests, none of those responsible to the taxpayers for supervising Picou were punished.

This is old news. Why are we bringing it up now? Picou has a hearing scheduled with the Louisiana State Police Commission to appeal his termination on Thursday, April 13.

Picou, represented by Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft, can claim he was doing just what he was told to do by his supervisors and that would appear to be the truth. We are told Picou received positive performance evaluations for his work while he was violating the policies for which he was terminated and for non-performance of his duties—payroll violations for which LSP failed to cite as reasons for his termination.

They kept the investigation limited to policy violations to protect Edmonson’s friends. We wonder if Picou will remain loyal to those friends while trying to get his job back.

LSP now has a new commander and we are told he is an admirable leader. This will be one of the first tests of his leadership. The stench of Guillory remains. Guillory was finally removed under a cloud of controversy where there were numerous disciplinary actions, a termination, a sudden resignation, and now multiple lawsuits.

His punishment for his dismal failure to effectively lead Troop D? A bigger command as the head of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED). We are told this is a position in Baton Rouge. Captain Guillory lives in Sulphur. That is three hours of authorized travel, one way, six hours both ways. We see this as a ceremonious hole for Guillory who has documented issues with prescription drugs.

Will LSP continue to stand behind Guillory, Brady, and Jacobsen? Will it cower to the will of Edmonson and actually allow Picou the chance to once again put on the badge of a Louisiana State Trooper? We believe Picou returning to the ranks of LSP would be a slap in the face to every Trooper and Law Enforcement Officer who has donned the uniform and sworn to protect and serve their communities.

We further believe it is time for LSP to properly investigate Picou and those who allowed him to betray his badge, fellow officers, and the people of Louisiana.

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The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) must really be hurting financially.

First, there was the flak about the illegal campaign contributions LSTA’s board decided to launder through the private bank account of its Executive Director David Young that brought unwanted attention to the association.

Then there was the persistent objections to that decision by several retired state troopers who are members of the association but, like the rest of the LSTA membership, were never consulted on the decision to involve the group in partisan politics.

Their objections became such an annoyance that four of the retirees, men who dedicated their entire working life to protecting the public and trying to make our highways safer, were voted out of the association. Just booted out. No thank-you, no going away party. Nothing except a letter saying they were no longer welcome as members of the brotherhood.

Eventually, the State Ethics Commission investigated the illegal contributions—illegal because state classified employees are forbidden from participating in partisan politics or for contributing to political campaigns—and levied a $5,000 fine against the association.

On the heels of that action the FBI served subpoenas on 18 members of the association, directing them to appear before a federal grand jury investigating association activities. That grand jury convenes on April 13.

As all this was going on, many State Troopers were victims of the floods that plagued Louisiana during 2016 and the LSTA generously pledged $1,000 to members who were adversely affected by the floods.

Included on its WEB PAGE is the following statement:

“We are committed to improved pay and benefits; to assure a better working environment; to provide support when needed; and to increase the quality of life for our members. We also strive to improve the public services provided by our members to our community.”

Somehow, though, the retiree members, those who likely needed help the most, were overlooked when those $1,000 checks went out. Several retirees have contacted LouisianaVoice to say they never received any help from the association.

Obviously, LSTA is short of funds. Why else would it, instead of helping out those retirees who were flooded (among them excommunicated member Leon “Bucky” Millet), reach out to them instead for contributions?

That’s right. Millet, a retiree who was booted out for protesting too much and who had his home flooded, recently received a solicitation letter from LSTA.

The letter which went out over LSTA President James O’Quinn’s signature, noted that the association uses contributions “to persuade government (apparently through campaign contributions) to provide better and safer conditions for our troopers. We use it to support community oriented programs that serve to enhance positive relationships between troopers and the communities they serve.”

The letter contained no mention of how contributions are also used for elaborate parties and to pay for travel all over the country for members to attend such work-related events as the Washington Mardi Gras.

“Because we’re grateful to those who are grateful for us, we like to recognize our donors with gifts. For our spring fundraising campaign, we have our much-requested official LSTA Field Cap. We also have our new 2017 window stickers, our wonderful spring vacation drawing and special recognition for our high-end donors.”

We’re pretty sure that a long-standing member who was expelled for asking legitimate questions would love to affix that sticker to his windshield and cruise on down the road wearing his official LSTA Field Cap.

Ending its solicitation on a personal note, the letter said, “Please consider a donation, Mr. Millet. We could use it.”

Yes. No doubt, the association may even use some of those contributions for legal fees.

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The shakeup continued at Louisiana State Police (LSP) Friday afternoon with the reduction in rank of former Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s top aid and heir-apparent and the promotion and reassignment of two others, according to the email below that was sent out to all LSP personnel:

From: Rhonda Fogleman On Behalf Of Deputy Secretary
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2017 2:45 PM
To: _DPS_Personnel
Subject: Transfer & Promotion Effective March 31, 2017
Importance: High

The following personnel changes are made effective at close of business on Friday, March 31, 2017:

Major Mike Noel transferred and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Interim Assistant Superintendent/Interim Chief of Staff

LTC Charlie Dupuy transferred and reassigned as Major, Command Inspector, Training

Major Frank Ducote transferred and reassigned as Major, Command Inspector, Patrol Operations/Region I

Authority of:   Colonel Kevin Reeves, Superintendent

In another development, LouisianaVoice has learned that Lt. Stephen Lafargue has resigned his position as trustee for the Louisiana State Police Retirement System. He was considered one of six Edmonson supporters on the board which will take up Edmonson’s retirement later in April.

Dupuy, once the odds-on favorite to eventually move into Edmonson’s position, was implicated in that October trip to San Diego by Edmonson and 16 subordinates to see Edmonson receive a national award. The four who drove to San Diego via Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon did so in the state vehicle assigned to Dupuy.

Maj. Noel, who previously served as a command inspector for the Gaming Division, will take over as lieutenant colonel in the position of Interim Assistant Superintendent and Interim Chief of Staff to Col. Kevin Reeves who assumed Edmonson’s duties last Saturday.

Noel, a veteran of 27 years with LSP was earning $140,900 as a major but will receive a significant pay increase to $161,300 as lieutenant colonel as he takes over the day-to-day operations of LSP.

Those at LSP who are familiar with Noel told LouisianaVoice he was a good choice for the position. “He’s an excellent choice,” said one trooper who asked not to be identified. “He’s even-handed and has a great disposition. Col. Reeves couldn’t have picked a better person for the job.

Ducote’s reassignment to the position previously held by Reeves was described as a lateral transfer. He presently earns $140,900.

Dupuy, on the other hand, will realize a significant reduction in pay to $140,900 from his current level of $161,300 as he returns to the position he held at the State Police Training Academy before being tapped by Edmonson as his chief of staff.

It may not be the last change at LSP as Reeves settles into his position One State Police insider said the transfer of Dupuy could signal that the Reeves appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Noel appointment are permanent instead of interim and that more demotions, transfers and retirements could be in the offing.

Others who might yet be transferred to other positions include Master Trooper Thurman Miller, Lt. Col. Jason Starnes who now presides over the Management and Finance Section, and Trooper T.J. Doss who currently serves as the State Trooper representative and as chairman of the Louisiana State Police Commission. Doss has been considered by some as Edmonson’s plant on the commission. Doss, from Ruston, has been TDY’d (assigned temporary duty) to Baton Rouge and presently resides at the State Police Academy.

The shakeup at LSP has been a long time coming as the agency has been buffeted by one damaging story after another—all reflecting on Edmonson’s leadership and administration of some 1,500 troopers statewide.

The San Diego trip was the tipping point as Edwards seemed determined to stick by his decision to reappoint Edmonson following his election in 2015 despite the controversy swirling around LSP. Edmonson had the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association which had endorsed Edwards in his runoff against former Sen. David Vitter.

Even before the San Diego trip, there were disciplinary problems, illegal campaign contributions and other issues that proved to be a source of constant embarrassment to the governor.

LSP is currently under investigation by the Division of Administration, the Legislative Auditor’s Office, and the FBI, all of which eventually forced Edwards to make the decision to allow Edmonson to announce his retirement, which took effect March 24.

When Edwards appointed Reeves to succeed Edmonson, there was speculation within the department that Edwards had prevailed upon Reeves to retain Dupuy as chief of staff to mollify the sheriffs but with Dupuy’s demotion and transfer, that now appears not to have been the case.

LSP public information officer Maj. Doug Cain said Reeves has had a busy first week in his new leadership role. “He’s been meeting with (Department of Public Safety) unit heads and senior staff within LSP in an effort to communicate his agenda for the department.”

Maybe it’s just us, but it seems a lot of meetings weren’t necessary to know there is a real problem at LSP. But the first step in resolving problems is to first acknowledge them.

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While much has been written lately here and by other news outlets about overtime abuse by Louisiana State Police (LSP), particularly on that infamous trip to San Diego back in October, there is a program whereby State Troopers may legitimately accrue overtime through an agreement with local district attorneys

The Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) detail is a program established pursuant to an agreement between LSP and the district attorneys whereby fines collected by the local criminal court fund may be used to pay State Troopers overtime pay for additional highway patrols for traffic enforcement.

Prior to implementing a LACE program, the local law enforcement, judges and district attorneys must agree to implement the program, and the criminal court fund authorized by Louisiana R.S. 15:571.11(L) may be used to fund the overtime pay off-duty police officers to provide law enforcement services.

In 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, Louisiana State Police issued 120,437 speeding citations on LACE and 68,932 on regular duty, according to the 2012 annual report of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. With these combined resources, Louisiana experienced a 10.46 percent decrease in speed-related fatalities in 2011.

The program has not been without controversy as LouisianaVoice has found troopers, particularly in Troop D in Lake Charles, who were allowed to work LACE while suspended from regular duty for disciplinary reasons.

But what happens when a local district attorney signs on to the program and then doesn’t pay State Police for the overtime?

Well, since the troopers performed the work, they must be paid so the money comes from the LSP budget instead of from fines collected by the local jurisdiction as was the original intent.

That’s exactly what has happened in St. Landry Parish where the parish is in arrears by more than $290,000 for 11 months, from March 2016 through January of this year.

Because of the district attorney’s failure to pay, LSP has suspended LACE activity for St. Landry Parish.

The monthly amounts owed LSP by St. Landry District Attorney Earl Taylor range from $17,870 for August 2016 to $39,392 for January of this year, according to a month-by-month accounting provided by LSP pursuant to a LouisianaVoice public records request.

Charles Cravins, formerly the regional director for the Fourth Congressional District, serves as Taylor’s Chief Administrative Officer, lending credence to the idea that he would be the one to see that the bills are paid. The District Attorney’s Web page boasts, that Cravins’ “extensive administrative experience” and his background in public service “makes him well equipped to handle the day-to-day operations of the D.A.’s office.”

So how did St. Landry manage to get 11 months in arrears (not counting February or March of this year)?

“I have no idea,” said LSP public information officer Maj. Doug Cain.

Could it be because so many cases are nolle prossed?

“No way,” says a retired State Trooper. “With the income they generate from tickets, they have plenty of money to pay LSP.”

He’s probably right, considering I-49 runs through St. Landry which provides a ready-made money machine for traffic courts from Lafayette to Shreveport.

Perhaps a better question is why did LSP allow Taylor to ignore his obligations for long while continuing to assign troopers to LACE duty in St. Landry?

Perhaps Taylor is about to make efforts to finally bring his account current.

In a two-page letter to Taylor dated March 22—two days before State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement took effect—LSP Assistant Secretary and General Counsel Gene Cicardo referenced a payment schedule the district apparently has agreed to. Cicardo asked that Taylor sign and return a copy of the letter “to memorialize our agreement” so that LSP may be paid for its work and so that it may reinstate the LACE program for St. Landry.

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