Baton Rouge was the 5th deadliest city in 2018 according to the FBI’s Crime in the United States data. The first step in addressing any issue is awareness. However, Baton Rouge Police Chief, Murphy Paul disagrees. When the Baton Rouge Police Union launched a campaign bringing awareness to crime data, the Chief fired Officer Siya Creel. Now, Chief Paul and the Baton Rouge Police Department are the subject of a lawsuit.
There were 136 homicides in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2020. 100 of those were within Baton Rouge city limits. Unfortunately, it does not look as if things will be better for 2021. As of January 25, 2021 East Baton Rouge Parish has seen 16 homicides.
In July 2020 Kiran Chawla, former investigative reporter for WAFB, interviewed Union Vice President and police officer, Siya Creel, about police union Billboards popping up around town. The billboards warned people to enter Baton Rouge “at your own risk” as the homicide rate was rising at an alarming speed. The Police Union explained that these messages are intended to let Baton Rouge citizens know that these “progressive” policing policies are making the community less safe.
Officer with a spotless record
Officer Creel was hired by Baton Rouge Police Department April 20, 2015. He maintained a “spotless record” throughout his employment with Baton Rouge Police Department. He became Vice President of the Union in 2019, and was in active negotiations about pay increases, promotions, and disciplinary matters with Mayor Broome as recently as August 2020.
After they were unable to come to an agreement, but before the next negotiation meeting, Creel was informed that he was required to attend an internal affairs meeting. Internal Affairs would not reveal what prompted this meeting. It turned out to be Officer Creel’s interview with WAFB’s investigative reporter, Kiran Chawla.
Kiran Chawla, has been a thorn in the side for those unappreciative of transparency for years. After Chawla looked into Broome’s B.R.A.V.E. contracts, an audit prompted the Mayor-President to suspend them. Afterward, M-P Broome said she would answer questions only if WAFB sent someone other than Kiran Chawla.
Chawla has also pointed out double standards and inconsistencies within BRPD on numerous occasions. One of these reports which aired on November 15, 2018 describes three officers doing similar acts but who were disciplined differently. Union VP Siya Creel doing an interview with Kiran Chawla appears to have been too much for Chief Murphy Paul and Mayor-President Broome to handle.
Alleged violation of social media policy
After the interview, Officer Siya Creel was investigated for conduct unbecoming of an officer, unauthorized statements, and alleged violation of the social media policy. The department stated that “it is hard for the public to determine whether he was speaking on behalf of the union or department”. Creel was wearing his uniform, but the video introduces Creel as the Vice President of the Baton Rouge Police Union. The description reads “The Baton Rouge Police Union says they have signed a contract to put up digital billboards for informational purposes. They added the goal is to inform Baton Rouge citizens of the current crime situation in the city. The billboards are expected to go up July 15th.”
If confusion was sincerely the concern, an easy fix would be to add a disclaimer for clarification. However, many officers have done interviews in uniform, including 14 year Union President, former BRPD Sgt. Chris Stewart and command staff at the pre disciplinary hearing. Some of them appeared in full Baton Rouge Police Department dress uniform to promote private companies which they were affiliated with for personal profit. None of them were reprimanded or accused of violating the same policy. On December 3, 2020, Creel filed Charges for Discrimination. On December 11, 2020, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) notified the Defendants of the filing. Officer Creel was terminated less than four days later.
Questions about Union activity
During the interview, Officer Creel was asked to reveal names officers and the nature of their involvement in the union, who authorized the placement of the billboards, where the billboard content came from, etc. These questions were asked by “high ranking officials” with authority within the department.
When Creel refused to divulge which union members participated in which activities he was threatened with disciplinary action. By design, these retaliatory actions have had a chilling effect on the union. To avoid further retribution by the Mayor-President and the Chief, all public comment duties have been turned over to the Louisiana Law Enforcement Association.
Covering-up failed policies
Chief Murphy Paul stands by his claim that this is about a social media policy violation. Paul continues trying to justify his actions, but what’s becoming more obvious by the day is a cover-up for failed policies and failed leadership. His issue isn’t with the Baton Rouge Union of Police, the billboards, or the person Creel interviewed with. Rather than take advantage of the opportunity to address some serious issues within the city, Broome blamed the uptick in crime on Covid-19. It’s clear that the Broome administration, including Chief Murphy Paul, isn’t as interested in fixing Baton Rouge’s huge crime problem as they are in making excuses for it.
If those who speak up about issues within a department or the city are to be punished, these issues will never be resolved. The truth is not always pleasant, but people need to be made aware. People need to know the state of their community. Saving face serves no purpose when it comes to keeping citizens safe. If Chief Murphy Paul and Mayor Broome do not want a city that requires an “enter at your own risk” warning, maybe they should reassess their policies rather than getting rid of those who dare speak up.