A former detective with the Baton Rouge Police Department faces his third arrest in recent months — this time for lying in police reports — amid an ongoing corruption probe into the entire narcotics division, officials announced Monday.
Jason Acree resigned from the department earlier this month following his second arrest. He was expected to turn himself in Tuesday on the following new charges related to alleged perjury: making false statements in an affidavit, maintaining false public records and malfeasance in office.
Acree was first arrested in February after investigators accused him of stealing marijuana from the narcotics evidence room and giving the drugs to his friend. He was booked into jail again last month on obstruction of justice, though that arrest was based largely on the same evidence and probable cause as the initial one.
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The announcement about his impending third arrest came Monday afternoon when Police Chief Murphy Paul called a press conference to update local media on the investigation and reassure the public that his administration is committed to rooting out corruption and rooting out bad cops.
"Transparency and accountability are not bad words. In fact, they are necessary on both sides of the police community relationship," he said. "Baton Rouge, don't let the actions of a few — a couple of rogue individuals — force you to lose faith in the vast majority of our officers who want to get it right for you."
Since the probe was launched in December, the narcotics division has been largely disbanded and normal operations remain temporarily suspended. In addition to Acree, another detective recently resigned from the department, yet another remains on leave pending the results of a criminal investigation, and four narcotics supervisors were transferred to street patrols.
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The first indication of possible corruption came when one narcotics detective, Jeremiah Ardoin, was arrested and accused of buying stolen electronics. While facing those charges, Ardoin accused his colleagues and supervisors of even more egregious misconduct. He said 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 Acree of stealing marijuana from the evidence room, a claim that formed the basis for his first arrest. Both Acree and Ardoin recently resigned from the department.
An attorney representing Ardoin, Dedrick Moore, spoke at the press conference Monday, thanking the police chief for launching a thorough investigation in response to complaints from his client. He said Baton Rouge is a safer place because Ardoin chose to expose the alleged wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, the ongoing investigation includes criminal and administrative probes in addition to a complete audit of division operations. Officials said the department has so far launched five separate criminal investigations, three of which remain ongoing. They refused to specify which investigations remain open but implied that the two closed cases focused on Acree and resulted in the existing charges against him.
It remains unclear which other officers are now under active criminal investigation, though the department confirmed last month that Cpl. Jacob Cowart, a relatively new addition to the narcotics division, had been placed on leave.
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The audit, which should take several months to complete, includes an examination of overtime spending practices. Payroll records indicate some detectives were padding their paychecks with massive amounts of overtime in the months leading up to the ongoing turmoil. The seven detectives accused of wrongdoing were clocking, on average, over 60 hours a week last year, some more than doubling their base salaries.
That payroll data, which was analyzed and presented in a recent Advocate article, adds to a growing pile of evidence that suggests the narcotics division operated largely in a bubble without much oversight — until the recent scandals came to light.
Paul had previously commented on the situation in recent interviews with The Advocate, but had not delivered public remarks to a wider audience until the press conference Monday.
He asked for patience and public trust, saying his investigators will leave no stone unturned.
Since taking office in 2018, Paul has repeatedly pledged to reform the department in hopes of mending fractured relationships with the Black community, and his comments Monday were an extension of that message. He promised to release some sort of public report once the investigation wraps up.
"We're gonna acknowledge mistakes and talk about how we move forward in that particular division," he said.
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