After the Baton Rouge police chief apologized for a 1993 photo of two officers in blackface for an investigation, CNN anchor and Baton Rouge native Don Lemon weighed in, saying the chief was right to apologize and call the photos "inappropriate."
The police department has explained that the photo was related to an undercover narcotics operation from 25 years ago — one the police chief at the time recalled as “very successful” — current Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul issued an apology Monday about the photo.
A photo of two white Baton Rouge police officers covered in dark make-up — snapped before a 1993 undercover drug sting in a predominantly blac…
Paul said in a statement that blackface photos are "inappropriate and offensive" both in 1993 and today.
"The chief is right," Lemon said on CNN, after referencing The Advocate's coverage and the chief's apology. "Inappropriate then, inappropriate now. So alright listen, can we all just admit that blackface is wrong and can we just stop it? I am sick of talking about it. I really am. It is a huge problem, but I'm sick of talking about it and I'm sure you're sick of hearing about it."
An Advocate story in 1993 about the operation noted there were seven undercover police officers involved. Crimestoppers coordinator Lt. Don Stone and now-retired police Capt. Frankie Caruso dressed up to appear black because the two black narcotics officers on the force at that time were too well known and easily recognized in the community, the officers said then.
The photo, which was posted online this weekend by The Rouge Collection, shows Stone and Caruso, posing above a caption that says 'Soul Brothers.'
"The caption of the photo doesn't mention the nature of that operation," Lemon said. "It just says 'soul brothers,' somehow making the whole thing even more bizarre."
At one point in the newscast, Lemon reads from a 1993 article from The Advocate where one of the officers commented on the costumes.
"One of the officers in blackface even boasted to the newspaper about his racist disguise. He said 'not only do they not know we're cops, they don't even know we're white!' And yes, there is no way anyone could've missed that these were in fact not black people," Lemon said, breaking out in laughter.
Lemon ended the newscast by sharing what he thinks is "the moral of the story" and what will make a difference.
"The police chief should have apologized for the lack of diversity in the department back then and that anyone would even fathom that putting white officers in blackface was a good idea, let alone a tool for law enforcement. You know what would've been sufficient here? Black officers."
The Baton Rouge Police Department remains far from reflecting the racial makeup of the city its officers serve, despite decades of federal ove…
He then refereed to a July article from The Advocate about the Baton Rouge Police Department's lingering federal consent decree from 1980. Despite that consent decree, the department remained far from reflecting the racial makeup of the city of Baton Rouge, according to the July article.
About 55 percent of residents of Louisiana's capital city are black, but only about 33 percent of BRPD officers are black, according to the city's most recent report to the U.S. Department of Justice. And of the 643 officers employed by BRPD, only about 9 percent are women. The majority of officers are white men, the statistics show.
"That's the real issue here," Lemon said. "So let's learn from the past, correct it in the future. You know who can see those guys are white, cmon man."