Well, it didn’t take long for comedy hour with Kenneth “Foot in the mouth” Boudreaux to kick off. Boudreaux was unanimously selected by the Lafayette City Council on August 2, 2022 for appointment to Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board; from a list of candidates provided by ULL. He was sworn in on August 5, 2022 and at that time Boudreaux commented that ‘he could not be color blind,’ but affirmed he could fulfill the duties outlined in his Oath of Office.
How hard could it be to faithfully and impartially discharge, perform and administer Civil Service law to the best of his ability and understanding? Well if you are Boudreaux perhaps that last part is the most challenging. While most people have the ability to make good decisions without even thinking of taking into consideration race, sex, ethnic origin, etc. Boudreaux has made an entire career out of creating division along racial and economic lines without having to fairly and impartially evaluate anything. After all, it better serves his platform as radio talk show loudmouth to complain without offering any reasonable solution. He just opens his mouth and inserts his foot.
CAN BOUDREAUX BE FAIR AND IMPARTIAL?
Earlier this month a Motion to Recuse Boudreaux was filed on behalf of Lafayette City Police Officer Pablo Estrada who is appealing his termination to the Board. Officer Estrada was fired by former Chief Thomas Glover in February of last year following a use of force incident which occurred at the Lafayette Parish Jail. Estrada request that Boudreaux voluntarily recuse himself or the Board recuse Boudreaux because of his bias and prejudice towards Estrada.
Estrada alleges that on March 21, 2021 Boudreaux hosted a broadcast on his “The Community Hour” show entitled “Policing; You be the witness, jury, and judge” which was directed towards Estrada. Boudreaux, speaking about the termination of Estrada, is quoted as saying “if this gets overturned, this is the problem family…” along with a host of other comments which clearly reveal that Boudreaux is incapable of fairly and impartially reviewing the termination of Estrada. Those statements include:
- “He’s standing flat footed with his feet flat on the ground, in some instances he was leaning back, not even leaning forward. Remember his hands was [sic] cuffed securely behind his back.” [Boudreaux speaking to why Lazard couldn’t have posed a threat to Estrada]
- “We cannot allow them to say he was in an aggressive posture.” [Boudreaux saying that no one, including the other members of the Fire and Police Civil Service Board, can form a rational opinion as to whether the actions of the arrestee was aggressive.]
- “What justifies the push against the wall, the punch to the stomach and the takedown to the bench?” [Perhaps it was a failure to comply with officer Estrada, which is not disputed by any of the witness statements obtained.]
- “[Chief Glover is] willing to do something about it, just like this chief did – Chief Glover, but then you have civil service boards who are going to overturn it.”
- “Is no way that black men in the confinement of the booking room of the local jail with their hands cuffed behind their back with not ability to do anything, no threat, where they didn’t even think it was necessary to be handcuffed to the table, be punched, shoved against the brick wall and slammed to the bench.” [Boudreaux is clearly ignorant of the threat and level of non-compliance a person can pose even after handcuffed.]
- “The chief’s position [termination] and the chief’s decision should be upheld.”
Estrada listed nine witnesses he is prepared to call at the hearing, while LCG list twelve witnesses. All of these witnesses have direct knowledge of the incident, the investigation and/or the procedures of LCG or LPD. Boudreaux, unwilling to allow the parties to put on their trial without his influence, sought a subpoena to compel the appearance of his own witness – District Attorney Don Landry and LCG Chief Administrative Office Cydra Wingerter.
WHO IS THE COMPLAINANT?
So, who exactly alleges Estrada did anything wrong? According to the record, the person who initiated the investigation into the matter was acting Chief at the time, Scott Morgan. Morgan listed himself as the complainant which is very similar to the matter involving police officer David Stanley, who was disciplined following complaints by municipal Chiefs of Police. The record also contains a letter dated January 15, 2021 from Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office Captain Todd Credeur which indicates he “was instructed by the Sheriff [Garber]” to deliver video and audio recordings of the incident. Interestingly none of the Sheriff’s Deputies – Sgt. Christopher Kent, Deputy Melvin Harris, Deputy Raquel Patin or Deputy Kristy Thibodeaux, who prepared reports and statements about the incident never submitted to oral examination by the Lafayette Police investigators. Nor, did the arrestee (Lazard) in this matter.
WAS A CRIME COMMITTED?
When it comes the issue of whether Estrada committed a crime the better question to ask is: was Estrada “justified” to use force? The average person is justified to use force upon another in certain situations, such self-defense. While a police officer acting in his official capacity may be justified in using force on a person for non-compliance, or in a jail setting to enforce jail regulations.
If there was any question of whether a crime was committed, the video, which is maintained by the Sheriff and was released to the media, should not have been released. Louisiana public records law provide an exemption for the release of records pending criminal adjudication. Clearly the Sheriff or staff that released the video didn’t feel any criminal consequences would arise from the incident. A Grand Jury which convened in May of this year reached the conclusion that Estrada did not commit the crimes of simple battery or malfeasance in office when it returned a no true bill on both counts. We have reached out to the District Attorney, but at the time of this writing we can neither confirm or deny whether or not it was the Sheriff who filed a criminal complaint against Estrada.
WAS A TORT OR CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION COMMITTED?
Just because an officer was justified in the use of force doesn’t mean he is absolved of civil liability. The next question which should be asked is whether the amount of force used was “reasonable.” There are many factors, when articulated, could affect a determination of whether or not the level of force used by an officer is reasonable.
According to the record, Estrada applied a strike to the arrestee’s abdomen. Although the arrestee was handcuffed, he was still capable of kicking, biting, spitting, head butting or performing a number of aggressive actions which could have caused harm to Estrada. There is no allegation that Estrada struck the arrestee in an area of his body or with any type of object which was likely to cause the subject death or great bodily harm. Nor, was there any reported injuries to the arrestee.
Estrada testified that he was dealing with a much bigger offender who stood 6’3” compared to Estrada being 5’6”. Estrada also testified that he was alone with the arrestee at the time of the incident and assistance from the LPD was not readily available to him. The call which led to the arrest of the subject was a result of the subject committing an act of violence upon another. Lastly, Estrada testified about having dealt with the subject in the past and that the subject resisted arrest and previously exhibited aggressive non-complaint behavior. All of these and other factors must be considered when making a determination as to whether the level of force was reasonable. Based on the evidence in the record it seems clear that Estrada did not use excessive force.
FAILURE TO INTERVENE
For those who contend that Estrada was either unjustified in the use of force and/or that he didn’t use a reasonable level of force must accept the fact that Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Deputies did not intervene in the situation. In fact, Estrada testified that while he was struggling with the arrestee, the Sheriff’s staff dispatched members of their emergency response team to deal with the non-compliant arrestee. None of the written statements in the record made by the staff of the Sheriff allege the amount of force used was improper. However, these written statements also do not indicate whether or not the emergency team responded to assist Estrada. If the Sheriff’s staff witnessed improper action by Estrada and failed to intervene, they could possibly be held both civilly and criminally liable.
Louisiana public records law also provides another commonly cited exemption for the release of records for matter which are the subject of civil litigation. Again, the Sheriff or his staff that released the video must not have felt any civil liability was attached to the incident.
DID A POLICY VIOLATION OCCUR?
Was there another underlying policy violation which ultimately resulted in the termination of Estrada? Again, based on the information in the record the answer appears to be – no. The Lafayette Police Department and most, if not all, law enforcement agencies employ a use of force continuum. In layman terms this is a model which is designed to train and instruct officers under which circumstances they may use certain levels of force. The model is not linear and an officer may go straight to the level of force he deems appropriate without exhausting lower levels of force.
In his February 22, 2021 termination letter to Estrada, then Chief Thomas Glover cites a portion of the LPD use of force policy entitled “Non-Lethal Physical Force.” The policy states: “The principle by which force is judged is the minimum force necessary to accomplish a legitimate police objective. The officer must assess each situation to determine the type and degree of force required. Short of physical force, there are a variety of methods by which an officer can influence an uncooperative subject.” The letter then goes on to cite some of the appropriate use of force levels contained in the policy: “officer presence” [Estrada was clearly present]; “verbal commands” [Estrada can be seen providing non-verbal cues in addition to verbal commands]. That is it! The policy doesn’t provide any further options short of physical force.
Glover continues in his letter to cite two physical force options available to Estrada, “soft empty hand control” and “hard empty hand control,” but fails to list the remaining non-lethal force alternatives contained in the policy which were also available to Estrada. Some of these include “pepper spray,” “electro-muscular disruption device” [Taser], and “impact weapons” [baton].
According to the record, two LPD officers who specialize in use of force training also reviewed the situation and determined that Estrada was justified to use force (No criminal wrongdoing). They also indicated that they “observed physical resistance from a non-compliant suspect throughout the incident. Officer Estrada struck one time in a “green” area of the body [an area not likely to cause death, disfigurement or great bodily harm] to gain compliance, and force him into a seated position (No civil wrongdoing). They stated that this is “consistent with LPD use of force training” (No policy violation).
SO WHY WAS ESTRADA TERMINATED?
In his termination letter to Estrada, former Chief Glover speaks more about the “reputation and integrity” of the LPD than any alleged use of force. It seems that was the real reason for the termination with allegations of improper use of force as a precursor. The record reflects that Estrada has had no previous complaints or discipline as an officer with the Lafayette Police Department. That is exceptional in comparison to others who have multiple disciplinary infractions.
This incident followed the woke political protest which came to Lafayette following the George Floyd and Trayford Pellerin deaths. A new chief (Glover) had been brought in to Lafayette. One of the goals established for him early on was the ‘remaking of the image’ of the LPD.
These are the types of poor decisions you get when the bureaucracy of government is polluted with woke activists who are more focused on their political agenda than the proper administration of office. LCG is defending the decision to terminate Estrada at additional costs to the taxpayer through legal fees. Now, thanks to ULL President Savoie and every member of the Lafayette City Council, we have Kenneth Boudreaux as a sitting member of the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board. More poor decisions are in the forecast. The Estrada hearing is presently set for November 30, 2022.