A heated race between two Democrats to replace retiring Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps has pitted a longtime Baker policeman against a retired Baton Rouge cop.
Knaps is leaving the Baker Police Department after 35 years, and citizens will vote Saturday to elect his successor. Darryl Rainwater, who has risen up the ranks in Knaps’ footsteps, hopes to continue Knaps’ legacy and bolster a department he says already serves Baker citizens well. Meanwhile, Carl Dunn, a Baton Rouge police officer who retired in June, is hoping to bring a swift culture change in the Baker Police Department.
Dunn worked 37 years for the Baton Rouge Police Department in north Baton Rouge’s crime-heavy zones. He graduated from Southern University with a criminal justice and sociology degree and has lived in Baker for 28 years, though he is a Port Allen native. He was named Officer of the Year in 1986, The Advocate previously reported.
Dunn, previously considered a candidate for Baton Rouge police chief, an appointed position, said the Baker Police Department does not engage with residents the way he envisions, noting a trend of police sometimes alienating the people they are meant to protect and serve.
“I’m changing that,” Dunn said. “My intent is to start a movement on the correct way to police neighborhoods.”
Dunn said he required officers he supervised in Baton Rouge to talk with at least 40 people a day without giving them a ticket, in addition to regular policing.
“We got away from asking the citizens exactly what they need,” Dunn said. “If you’re not living on that street, how can you know what they need on their street? It may take a ticket sometimes, but it’s not going to take a ticket every time.”
During his long career with Baton Rouge police, Dunn faced a couple of disciplinary actions that have been publicized before, including a five-day suspension in 1989 for striking a handcuffed woman in the face. One BRPD officer at the time said Dunn struck the woman handcuffed to a restraining rail because she told a different version of events about an arrest of a family member than he had, according to previous reports. When asked about it, Dunn denied hitting the woman when she was handcuffed, saying he fought with her while she was armed with a loaded pistol.
In 1994, Dunn was suspended without pay for 45 days by then-Police Chief Greg Phares for what was only described as “failure to comply with the alcohol provision of the drug policy and for failure to obey an order” from the chief, The Advocate previously reported. Dunn said he and other officers were being asked to take a toxicology test as a form of discrimination, as no complaint had been filed against them.
While Dunn touts his desire to change the Baker department, Rainwater, who has spent more than 20 years in the agency, said he is proud of the way the department is run. Rainwater graduated from Baker High School and attended Southeastern University for two years.
Rainwater said he has only one strike against him on his personnel file: a one-day suspension for failing to change the oil in his police unit.
“I learned from it,” Rainwater said. “I haven’t missed an oil change since.”
If elected, Rainwater said, he would like to focus on working with the youth through the DARE program, helping the elderly and enhancing bike patrol. Rainwater said he wants to take advantage of advancing technology and maintain healthy ties with other local law enforcement agencies.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Rainwater said, adding that he wants the department to continue living by one of Knaps’ sayings, “Leave it better than you found it.”
Rainwater has received endorsements from Knaps, the retiring chief, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, recently elected state Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, and the AFL-CIO.
Dunn said he has many supporters but provided no list of political endorsements. When asked if he had met with the retiring police chief, he said he had not.
“He’s been a campaign manager (for Rainwater) from day one,” he said.
Dunn said a department-wide email was circulated the day he qualified to make him feel uncomfortable.
Knaps said the email was standard procedure for elections and that it only reminded officers not to participate in politics because the penalty by state law is termination. No one’s name was mentioned in the email, Knaps said.
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