Whether a Walker police sergeant who recently hung a twine noose in the booking area of the police station violated state law will be investigated by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, a police spokesman said Thursday.
Police Chief David Addison had reached out to the state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday about investigating the matter, but Walker police spokesman Capt. John Sharp said Thursday that the Sheriff’s Office will take the case instead.
“As we talked amongst ourselves yesterday, there’s a need to get this done as quickly as we can and get it resolved one way or the other,” Sharp said.
The investigation will center on whether the uniform patrol sergeant — whom the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office have declined to name — intended to intimidate anyone by hanging the string noose above a desk in the squad room’s processing area on Feb. 24.
A Walker Police Department sergeant hung a noose in the station's squad room several weeks a…
The sergeant, who Addison said has been with the department for 12 years, was suspended without pay for three days on March 1-3 for violating the department’s policy on personal conduct and behavior.
The lieutenant who found the noose around 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 — roughly 21 hours after it had been hung — threw the noose and a cookie it held into the trash and contacted Assistant Chief Kenneth Black, who told him to investigate the incident, according to department records. Addison said Wednesday the incident happened on a Sunday night.
“Later that day I was contacted by you, and was advised that the cookie and noose was not intended for me,” Lt. D. Williams wrote in a disciplinary letter to the sergeant, whose name was blacked out in the paperwork. “I informed you that I was unable to speak to you about the incident because I was entertaining my family at the time of your call.”
The following Tuesday, when the sergeant again told Williams that he had not intended to offend the lieutenant, Williams replied that he “was disturbed because there was a noose in the squad room visible to the public — for example, arrested individuals, visitors, etc.”
Williams said the sergeant claimed to have made the noose to “pick with” an arrestee, but surveillance video confirmed “there was no arrestee present when you fashioned and displayed the cookie and noose in the squad room” in front of subordinate officers.
“Those actions could be misconstrued as intimidation directed toward a person or persons who are placed under arrest,” Williams wrote in the disciplinary letter. “We should remain professional at all times, even in the privacy of our own police department.”
Williams called the incident a “lapse in judgment” and said he was recommending three days suspension without pay “due to the magnitude of the violation.”
State law makes it a crime to display a hangman’s noose on public property “with the intent to intimidate any person or group of persons.” The penalty for doing so is a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year in prison with or without hard labor, or both.
The 2008 law defines a noose as a rope tied in a slip knot, “which historically has been used in execution by hanging, and which symbolizes racism and intimidation.”
Sharp said the Sheriff’s Office investigation likely would take no more than a week.
“It shouldn’t take long, determining someone’s intent,” Sharp said. “You question them about that, what their intent was, and you might question anybody that feels as though they were a target of the activity about whether or not they felt intimidated by it.”
Sharp said no one has filed any complaints with the department, saying they felt intimidated by the noose displayed in the squad room. Sharp could not confirm whether the sergeant’s work would come under stricter scrutiny now that he’s back on the job.