CROWLEY — A Crowley woman arrested twice within a year for video recording police officers on the job has filed suit against the city, Police Chief K.P. Gibson and the two officers who arrested her, who she alleges were not legally authorized to act as officers at the time of the arrests.
Lafayette attorney L. Clayton Burgess, on behalf of Theresa Richard, filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court.
Richard is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages from the four defendants for mental anguish related to her “false arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment,” according to the suit.
Lt. Scott Fogleman arrested Richard on Dec. 1, 2013, for “remaining after being forbidden” as she recorded video from within the Police Department’s lobby. Officer Skeat Thibodeaux arrested her on May 28 for interfering with a law enforcement investigation and public intimidation while recording her neighbor’s interaction with a police officer.
All the counts against Richard were later dismissed, the lawsuit states.
Within the lawsuit, Burgess emphasizes that neither Fogleman nor Thibodeaux were properly commissioned officers at the time of the arrests.
“One of the reasons she was falsely arrested — besides that she can take pictures in public places — is because they were not police officers to begin with,” Burgess said Monday afternoon in a phone interview.
The Crowley Board of Aldermen is required by state law to approve hirings, firings, promotions and disciplinary actions for all employees within the Police Department, yet it had not done so for 27 new hires and 123 promotions, according to a city document distributed during the Oct. 14 board meeting and attached to the lawsuit.
Fogleman moved up the ranks from recruit to lieutenant without board approval in a string of promotions from April 2007 to June 2011. His first two promotions, from recruit to probational officer to permanent officer, were awarded without a record from the Crowley Fire and Police Civil Service Board on file, which is required.
Thibodeaux was hired in July 2013, also without a civil service record on file and without the aldermen’s approval. He was promoted to probational police officer in March, again without approval.
The board retroactively approved the 150 hirings and promotions — some dating back to the 1990s — at its Oct. 14 meeting after Richard brought the issue to City Attorney Thomas Regan’s attention.
But in a 2012 attorney general opinion issued to Civil Service Board Secretary Lois Richard — it’s also attached to the suit — Attorney General Buddy Caldwell stated that “certification cannot be made retroactively.”
Gibson referred requests for comment to Regan, who did not return two phone calls Monday afternoon.
Richard’s arrests prompted Gibson to ban audio and video recording inside the Police Department, citing his concern for the safety of witnesses and informants who may be waiting in the lobby to talk to police officers.
At Gibson’s request, Caldwell reviewed the policy and gave Gibson the OK to enact the ban, yet urged him to “consider whether safety, security or privacy concerns warrant the contemplated restrictions on the public’s right to gather information on government activities.”
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook. Contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.