Taylor Jones says he'll never forget the November night when he had his first panic attack.
Jones, 28, had just started his usual night shift as a patrol officer for the Broussard Police Department when his heart started racing and his palms grew sweaty.
"Once I got on the road and started patrolling, I couldn't focus," Jones said. "I almost ran off the road and had to stop."
Jones said he had received unwelcome, inappropriate texts and Snapchat messages from his police chief earlier that day.
He would ultimately quit his job in March as a result of the alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Brannon Decou, who has served as the police chief of Broussard for 20 years.
It's been almost five months since the night when Jones says he had a panic attack behind the wheel of his police unit. Jones said he's since shared evidence of the sexual harassment with his supervisor, the assistant police chief, the Broussard mayor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but nobody has taken his complaints seriously.
Jones said he's sharing his story now in an attempt to shed light on the wrongdoing of an elected official and to protect the remaining officers. In addition to Jones, two other former officers shared their own stories of sexual misconduct during their employment at the Broussard Police Department for this story under the condition of anonymity because they still work in law enforcement.
The three men described a work environment where officers were hired and promoted based on appearance, where unwelcome sexual advances were the norm and where anyone who voiced concerns faced swift retaliation.
"If you ask around, Broussard is kind of known as the pretty boy place," one officer said. "If you look good in a uniform, you pretty much get hired."
Allegations from Jones and two other former officers against the Broussard police chief include:
- persistent and unwelcome sexual comments to his officers made in person, via text message and through social media
- sexual touching of a subordinate during a work Christmas party
- regular directives to employees to tailor their uniforms tighter
- a workplace culture where inappropriate comments pervade meetings, interoffice communications and day-to-day operations
- hiring discrimination against men who were perceived as less attractive
- use of sexual, derogatory nicknames in the workplace
When asked about the allegations, Decou said he could not comment at this time.
Personal texts, Snapchat
Jones, a retired Marine who has worked for another law enforcement agency, said he'll never go back to working as an officer after his experience at the Broussard Police Department.
He started working as a Broussard officer in September of 2019. Although Jones said there were sometimes inappropriate jokes made during staff meetings, he made it through his first year at the agency without significant discomfort because he worked overnight shifts and rarely interacted with the police chief.
"When I first started, I thought it was pretty great," Jones said. "Everything was well structured. It seemed like your efforts were acknowledged. It wasn't until later that I learned that wasn't true. I tended to get more praise than others but never knew it because it all came directly from the chief through official emails."
The alleged sexual harassment did not begin until November 2020, according to Jones.
Jones shared screenshots with The Acadiana Advocate of sexually suggestive text messages that came from a number Decou has distributed to media as his personal cell phone number. Jones said that when he ignored an inappropriate text message on Nov. 17, Decou explained the joke in more clear terms via text message.
"The 'tip' comment was a sly remark on the other side outside of work mode," reads a text message to Jones from Decou about 12:30 p.m. Nov. 17. "We can cut up anytime. It helps keep things fun... I can always separate work and personal so feel free to be open with me anytime."
In the next message, Jones said, Decou asked if he had a Snapchat account, and the conversation continued in the social media app where pictures and messages are only available for a short time before they disappear. Jones said he was reluctant to add his police chief on Snapchat but agreed, in part, because Decou had told him in writing that he needed to loosen up.
Jones said he initially tried to ignore Decou's Snapchat messages and photos, but Decou asked why he was leaving them unread. Jones said the first photo he received was of Decou in which he appeared to be naked, although the image was cropped just above the genitalia. Jones said he was not able to save the photo because of the way the social media platform is designed, and if he took a screenshot, it would have notified the sender, who was his highest-ranking boss.
Later that same day, Jones said, Decou continued to cross the line. He would eventually decide to take screenshots of the Snapchat messages, even though the action would notify Decou.
"You gonna send scandalous pics sometime?" reads a Nov. 17 Snapchat message Jones said came from Decou.
"I dunno about all that lol," Jones replied.
"Hmm why not? I think you do hehe."
"Im not much of a picture taker. And I'm married," Jones responded.
"Yea yea yea excuses lol. She would be ok with it I'm sure lol," came the reply.
Jones said he continued to try to skirt the police chief's requests in their Snapchat exchanges but eventually stated clearly that he was uncomfortable with the conversation.
"I'll be honest. I'm ok with being friendly and cutting up and everything, but scandalous pictures is definitely outside of my comfort zone," Jones wrote in an exchange later that day.
"Ok cool. Now I know different than what I thought. We are good with anything so it's all good here," Decou wrote.
From there, the police chief asked his subordinate to keep the conversation confidential and shifted the topic to home life and hobbies, Jones noted.
When Jones decided to take screenshots of the Snapchat messages the next day, he said Decou asked about it via the social media app. Jones wrote that he had accidentally taken screenshots while cleaning his phone.
"Hmmm ok lol," he said Decou wrote in response. "Do you normally shoot prematurely like that?"
Jones said Decou also sent a photo of himself without a shirt via Snapchat that same day, Nov. 18.
Jones said the messages became less frequent after he took the screenshots, although he said Decou sent him Snapchat messages again on Nov. 25 and Dec. 4 to ask why he'd been so quiet. The police chief also asked if Jones' silence had anything to do with their previous conversations.
A final Snapchat message, another shirtless photo of Decou, was sent to Jones in the early hours of Christmas Day.
Jones said he started looking for employment outside of the Broussard Police Department soon after he received the inappropriate text and Snapchat messages.
"It didn't take me long to decide I was done," Jones said. "I talked to my direct supervisor. I tried to not give him too much information, just because he would have to do something about it right away and I still needed a job, but he kind of figured it out anyway and we went from there."
A formal complaint
With support from his supervisor, Jones filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
He had a phone interview with an EEOC representative on Jan. 15 to discuss the complaint further. Jones said he was disappointed by the outcome.
"They didn't ask for the pictures or anything," Jones said. "I kind of felt like they blew it off."
The EEOC does not comment on specific complaints or the outcomes of any investigations, according to an agency spokesperson. The commission defines harassment as being illegal when:
- It becomes a condition of continued employment.
- The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile or offensive to reasonable people.
- It is in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation or opposing discriminating employment practices.
EEOC Spokesperson James Ryan said discrimination law, which includes sexual harassment, is both simple and complicated.
In theory, it should be common sense: Don't mistreat employees. In reality, it can be difficult to define and determine when a line is crossed. The EEOC typically pursues cases that have the highest chance of success in court and will impact the greatest number of people.
"The EEOC is not your only resource," Ryan said. "We encourage people to come to the EEOC first; however, you can also go to a state or local civil rights agency."
Jones did not resign from his position at the Broussard Police Department until he had secured a new job at a shooting range.
When Jones submitted his resignation March 29, he left packets with his supervisor, the assistant police chief and the Broussard mayor that included the allegations against Decou, screenshots of the inappropriate messages and his contact information.
"And from what I'm being told by people that still work there, the chief was seen coming back to the office with the photos I gave to the mayor's office," Jones said. "And now they're being told not to talk about it and that there's rumors going around."
Jones said the attorney who represents the city of Broussard and its police department reached out to him last week. Jones has since hired lawyer Lee Durio to represent him at an upcoming meeting with Gerald deLaunay, the attorney for the Broussard Police Department.
Broussard Mayor Ray Bourque sent a statement by email in response to an interview request for this story.
"We received a complaint from a former Police Department employee," Bourque wrote. "We take these matters very seriously, and as is our policy, we deferred this to our legal department. They are currently handling all matters concerning the complaint. We cannot comment any further on an employee matter."
Decou referred a reporter to the mayor's statement when asked about the specific allegations made by his former officers.
Jones isn't the only former officer who has alleged sexual harassment while working at the Broussard Police Department.
Two others agreed to discuss their experience in the workplace only if their names were not used because both are still employed in law enforcement and are prohibited from speaking with members of the media in their current roles.
One officer worked at the Broussard Police Department for about a year from 2019 to 2020. The other worked at the Police Department about eight years ago for a similar amount of time.
In separate interviews, the former officers described in detail the sexual harassment they say they experienced during their employment.
"It was a nightmare," said the more recent employee. "It's a nightmare that I'm glad is over."
He said Decou instructed his officers to tailor their uniforms tighter to show off their biceps and suggested those who engaged in oral sex with the chief would be rewarded with one of the Police Department's new vehicles.
"The chief made a joke that he would put the keys around his d---, and whoever wanted the cars could take the keys off with their mouth," the former officer said.
Later, the former officer said, he faced retaliation for filing a complaint within the Police Department over the chief's sexual misconduct. The former officer shared an audio recording with The Acadiana Advocate of a meeting with the assistant police chief during his resignation last year.
"The chief told me to repeat to you about the resignation," Assistant Chief Chris Galvez said in the recording. "That it'll stay that way as long as you don't talk ill of him or the department."
The officer interpreted that as a threat that his resignation would be changed to a firing if he spoke about the chief's behavior.
The officer who worked for the Broussard Police Department eight years ago said sexual harassment was continuous and pervasive in the workplace during his employment but it crossed a line during the annual Christmas party.
"The most alarming and outright frustrating was at the annual Christmas parties," the former officer said. "He starts drinking alcohol. He starts feeling a lot more loose, and right in front of your significant other he's making suggestive comments, he's rubbing against you. It's extremely awkward, and he doesn't care that he's the chief. He doesn't care that you're the subordinate. None of that matters."
The man said he never filed a formal complaint against Decou internally or externally because he didn't believe his concerns would be taken seriously and his primary concern was to find employment elsewhere. He said he also feared his complaint would be viewed as homophobic because the police chief is gay.
"Brannon always falls back on the 'I'm gay, and if people are complaining about me it's because I'm gay,'" the former officer said. "That's bull. Nobody in law enforcement gives a damn if you're gay or not. Brannon throws that in there any time someone has a problem with him because that has always been his scapegoat. And as far as reporting it goes, there's no one really to report it to."