BR police

Members of the Baton Rouge Police Department, including the special response team, investigate the scene in this file photo.

A third narcotics detective with the Baton Rouge Police Department is under criminal investigation amid a widening corruption probe that already has resulted in the arrests of two officers.

Cpl. Jacob Cowart has been placed on administrative leave, BRPD spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely confirmed Friday. He declined to provide additional details about why BRPD leaders put Cowart on leave, citing the pending investigation.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office is working with BRPD leadership. He also confirmed there is an active criminal investigation into Cowart.

Out of 12 detectives assigned to the narcotics division, seven have now been removed: two remain on leave, one quit earlier this week and four supervisors were recently transferred to street patrols.

The detective who resigned is Jeremiah Ardoin. He left the department after issuing widespread misconduct allegations against his colleagues in the narcotics division, prompting the inquiry now underway. He made the accusations after receiving a misdemeanor summons for buying stolen property in December.

Ardoin wrote in a memo to the chief that narcotics officers routinely stopped and searched Black people without probable cause, planted drugs on suspects and coerced prostitutes into setting up drug dealers. He also accused his colleague Jason Acree of stealing drugs from the evidence room.

Weeks later, investigators arrested Acree for stealing marijuana seized as evidence and giving the drugs to a friend. He was booked into jail on possession with intent to distribute and malfeasance in office. Acree was later arrested again as investigators sought to add an obstruction of justice charge, using largely the same evidence.

Not long after his first arrest, the BRPD administration transferred four narcotics supervisors to street patrols, effectively cutting the division in half, removing its leaders and suspending normal operations.

Ardoin wrote in the memo that supervisors sometimes participated in the misconduct and tried to cover it up.

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Acree remains on leave.

Little information was available Friday about the criminal investigation against Cowart, though two sources said it involves alleged mishandling of evidence. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Cowart was relatively new to the narcotics division, having joined almost a year ago, according to BRPD officials. He has served with the department itself for four years.

Though details remain scarce about the possible criminal wrongdoing, Cowart was mentioned in memo Ardoin sent to the chief, which presents him in a somewhat positive light.

The memo says that in November 2020, Cowart complained to his supervisors about "the way Det. Acree had been acting, and stated that he could not be around him at the time."

The two supervisors, who have since been pulled from the division, told Cowart and Acree to go inside the narcotics processing room together and "either talk about their issues or fight," according to the memo.

Ardoin said the two got into an argument that turned physical, then left the room and started talking to one of the supervisors, who stood between them. While Cowart had his hands in his pockets, Acree reached around the supervisor and "punched Cowart in the face," the memo says.

Ardoin claims the supervisors later wrongly accused Cowart of being the aggressor and wrote him up for fighting, while Acree faced no consequences. Recent attempts by The Advocate to obtain a copy of the write-up via public records request were unsuccessful.

BRPD officials declined to say when Cowart was placed on leave, or whether additional criminal investigations are expected.

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