The Lafayette Civil Service Board on Wednesday declined a request to review a recent internal affairs investigation into a white city police officer’s expletive-laden rant that included a racial slur.
In a 4-1 vote, the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board declined the request made in June by retired police officer Andres Landor, who four months ago handed over a recording of the officer using the derogatory language about one of his black superiors to the Lafayette City-Parish Council.
“It would have to be gross negligence on behalf of the (police) department for the board to take up the matter,” Civil Service board member Guy LeBreton said before the vote.
Although the Police Department’s internal affairs division issued a 30-day suspension against Sgt. William White because of his language in the clandestine recording, Landor and other black community leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the discipline, calling for the officer’s termination.
Board member Craig Forsyth cast the sole vote in opposition to his fellow board members, who voted in favor of dismissing the matter.
“(The language) does have a negative effect in the Police Department and the community of Lafayette and its citizens,” Forsyth said before the vote, urging the department to consider the ramifications of such behavior on its relationship with the public.
Board Attorney Candice Hattan advised the body that it must determine “just cause” to open a review into White’s internal affairs investigation, although it would not have authority to enforce changes to the officer’s discipline should it have chosen to review his case.
Because White was disciplined for the language and did not appeal his suspension, Chairman Jason Boudreaux said it’s not the board’s position to conduct further reviews of those cases upon the complainant’s request — an assertion with which board member Guy LeBreton agreed.
He said the matter would have had to directly affect Landor — who only submitted a complaint about the recording and was not on the receiving end of the language in question — or be an issue of “great public concern.”
“It’s obvious you don’t have a black son,” Landor told the board in response to that remark.
Landor further questioned whether the board agreed with the discipline administered to White and why the department ignored the recording when it was first submitted to internal affairs in 2012.
Board member Richard Chappuis said in response that the board unanimously adopted a motion at its June meeting — when Landor requested the board’s review of White’s discipline — that states it does not condone discriminatory language or behavior.
In the brief snippet of audio, which was posted to YouTube, White references “these f***ing dumb f***ing niggers around here.”
The audio is one of more than a hundred surreptitious recordings of city employees submitted as part of a federal lawsuit filed by 15 officers alleging corruption in the city and the Police Department.
Although the files were posted to a website before a federal judge in the case ordered it shuttered to protect potential jurors from bias, they were not allowed as evidence in the case before it was dismissed last year.
In another 4-1 vote on Wednesday — with Forsyth again voting against his peers — the board also upheld the termination of one of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit, former Lafayette officer Uletom Hewitt.
As he did when the board upheld the two suspensions lodged against him months before his termination, Hewitt on Wednesday evening said he plans to take the matter to district court.
The board in coming months will hear appeals from two other former officers, Greg Cormier and Nolvey Stelly, who were fired for various reasons after joining the lawsuit.
Aside from other administrative matters, like accepting applications for open positions and scheduling promotion exams, the Civil Service board also hears appeals of police and fire department employees who are suspended and terminated.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.