calvinbraxton

Calvin Braxton

It has not proven easy for Gov. John Bel Edwards to keep the Louisiana State Police Commission at full strength.

Resignations have come thick and fast and turnover may not get less rapid any time soon. Two of the seven seats are currently vacant, and the occupants of one of the others has been revealed as totally unfit. No sleuthing was required to nail Jared Caruso-Riecke. He was damned out of his own mouth in an online video wherein he showed off the technology he needs to avoid the cops as he drives across the country like a maniac.

He showed how his phones, navigation aids and scanners, with their thousands of channels, can be hidden behind a custom-made panel that slots around the fascia in his souped-up car if ever he gets pulled over.

That was, of course, very clever of Caruso-Riecke, although it may be that the best way of keeping his secret was not to put it on YouTube. He says the video was “tongue in cheek” and shot for a reality TV show,

Another video shows him betting two other rally drivers $25,000 that they cannot beat the record for the drive from New York to Los Angeles. These guys are accomplished lawbreakers – they carried 10 sets of license plates to be switched out if the cops gave out their number on the radio, and sustained speeds of 140 mph as they hurtled coast to coast.

Caruso-Riecke lost his bet with a good grace. State troopers who caught the video, however, may figure that Caruso-Riecke belongs in jail rather than on the commission to which they are answerable. His official role is surely to encourage respect for the police, yet he goes out of his way to betray his own contempt.

Caruso-Riecke and the hotshots who beat the coast-to-coast record are clearly much more skilled than the run-of-the-mill drivers with whom they share the public highways they treat as their private racetrack. With all the drunks and incompetents out there, the risk of disaster is obvious. Imagine, for instance, if Caruso-Riecke at his breakneck best had encountered his fellow Police Commissioner Calvin Braxton's daughter, Brandy when she was not at her most alert.

After Brandy Braxton was arrested for DWI, a state police commander reported that he called her father “as a courtesy.” The courtesy was not reciprocated; Calvin Braxton upbraided the police for making the arrest and threatened reprisals against the arresting officer if he ever appeared before the commission. He also suggested, in vain, that the arresting officer be transferred hundreds of miles away to New Orleans to “get his mind right.”

Brandy Braxton was allowed as a first offender to pay a fine and enter a diversion program instead of facing a DWI charge in court. Calvin Braxton resigned from the commission Friday.

Perhaps it is a measure of the State Police Commission's dire condition that a few months ago Calvin Braxton and Caruso-Riecke made the rest of its members look shady. They were the only ones to vote against accepting the resignation of the commission's executive director, Cathy Derbonne.

Derbonne quit when she was about to be fired in apparent retaliation for launching an investigation that found three commission members, and the State Troopers Association, had made illegal campaign contributions. The commission members resigned, while the association and its secretary paid a fine.

Commissioner Lloyd Grafton was absent from the meeting when Derbonne's resignation was accepted, but, when he showed up the next month, he too quit, declaring, “I've tried to keep some integrity on this commission, and there is none.” As the commission's longest serving member, Grafton should know.

He, as Derbonne had done a month earlier, accused the commission of sucking up to the top brass in the department it is supposed to regulate. Braxton, meanwhile, took a similarly dim view of his colleagues and walked out of the meeting.

The state constitution created the commission as the state police department's own civil service. Edwards will need to choose some new commissioners carefully if it to cease being a joke.

Email James Gill at jgill@theadvocate.com