Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. retired Monday morning after more than three decades with city police, bringing to a close his difficult and tumultuous final year as head of the department.
Dabadie's departure, announced in a letter to Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, ends a months-long standoff with Broome over his future with the Baton Rouge Police Department. Broome, who was sworn in as mayor in January, repeatedly vowed to replace Dabadie as chief during her campaign.
But civil service protections meant the police chief remained largely free to decide the terms and timing of his departure, leaving both Dabadie and Broome locked in a quiet showdown. In his letter to the mayor and in a public statement Monday afternoon, Dabadie suggested the frayed relationship with City Hall factored heavily in his decision to step down.
"I had hoped our relationship could have grown into a strong partnership as we have faced times this city has never seen," Dabadie wrote Broome. "I feel that my retirement would be the best thing for the department and myself."
The chief also wrote he'd had "the honor and privilege of leading one of the finest police departments in the country and I will be forever thankful for the opportunity.
Dabadie will take paid leave from the department before officially departing on Oct. 2, he wrote in the letter. Broome confirmed that her office had approved his leave.
"Chief Dabadie is an honorable man and I will continue to say that," Broome said Monday. "He has served our city as police chief. Many people appreciate, certainly, his contribution to law enforcement."
Broome named Lt. Jonny Dunnam as interim chief. Dunnam has spent the past 28 years with BRPD, including the past three years as the top spokesman for the department following a lengthy stint in internal affairs. Dunnam will not be eligible to apply for the permanent position, according to a news release from Broome's office.
Dabadie had recommended in his retirement letter that Deputy Chief David Hamilton, his second-in-command at the department, take over as interim.
Fellow law enforcement leaders hailed Dabadie as a strong, steady leader for the Baton Rouge Police Department, a chief who helped guide the agency through an extremely difficult past year marked by protests, national scrutiny of the department, floods and an ambush attack that killed two Baton Rouge policemen and an East Baton Rouge sheriff's deputy.
"I think that having an unprecedented level of collaboration and cooperation among local law enforcement agencies was a huge asset in carrying our agencies and the community through one of the hardest years we've ever experienced," said East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
But a number of local politicians and activists who backed Broome's call for a change at the top of BRPD said Dabadie's departure offers the chance to make needed changes to the department. Most echoed Broome's description of Dabadie as a good man and honorable officer, but said new leadership was needed.
State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, a north Baton Rouge Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for mayor, said she'd enjoyed a good working relationship with Dabadie over the years and appreciated his efforts to improve strained ties between the department and some areas of the black community.
But Marcelle said Dabadie was also too hesitant to address complaints about officer misconduct and didn't push the department to become more accountable to the public.
"It's not necessarily his (Dabadie's) fault, but it's systematic within the Baton Rouge Police Department," Marcelle said.
Criticism of the Baton Rouge Police Department under Dabadie's leadership grew loudest in the wake of the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, during a struggle outside a North Foster Drive store on July 5, 2016. The shooting, captured on cell phone video, prompted protests and international media scrutiny of the department.
Dabadie sparred publicly with Broome after she demanded this spring that he fire Blane Salamoni, the officer who shot Sterling. Dabadie refused, insisting that the department wait until the pending state criminal investigation into the shooting concludes.
It will now fall on Dabadie's replacement to determine whether or how to discipline Salamoni or the second officer involved in the incident, Howie Lake II. Both Salamoni and Lake remain on paid administrative leave while state Attorney General Jeff Landry reviews the case. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that there wasn't evidence to file federal civil rights charges against the officers.
In a statement he released on Monday, Dabadie addressed both his tenuous position at the department in recent months and the fatal shooting last year that rocked the department.
"Unfortunately, I am in a situation that will not serve our police department or the citizens of Baton Rouge," Dabadie said. "My hope is that the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department will be allowed to perform their jobs according to state law, without prejudice, and that politics will not prevail over public safety."
He noted that deadly ambush on July 17, 2016, that shook the BRPD. A lone gunman from Kansas City, Missouri, killed three officers and wounded three others.
At a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the fatal shootings earlier this month, Dabadie said the last 12 months had been "excruciating."
"My heartfelt thanks go to the people of Baton Rouge for their tremendous support, especially throughout the worst year we have experienced during my time as chief," Dabadie said in his statement. "When officers made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in the line of duty, the people of our city, parish and state stood with us as they always do. That bond will not be broken, even though some may try."
Dabadie's departure now launches the national search for a new chief that Broome promised during his campaign for mayor last fall. The mayor said she would begin a search for a police chief immediately after taking office seven months ago, but later backed off that pledge, saying she wanted to wait until she and Dabadie came to an agreement about his departure before considering candidates to replace him.
The mayor was also constrained by the civil service protections for the police chief, which would only allow Broome to fire Dabadie for just cause.
The BRPD chief can be paid within a range of $121,133 to $145,510 annually, according to the city-parish's pay plan. The chief also receives an extra $6,000 in state supplemental pay, along with a vehicle allowance. Dabadie was paid $146,510 last year, according to the city-parish's salary database.
The future BRPD chief is purely a mayoral appointment, and the Metro Council does not have the ability to ratify Broome's choice, based on the Baton Rouge plan of government. As long as Broome keeps her future chief's salary within the range that maxes out at $145,510, the Metro Council will not have to approve or set the next chief's salary, either.
But should Broome want to increase the pay of the next chief, she would have to go to the Metro Council for approval.
"Chief Dabadie will be hard to replace," said Hillar Moore III, the East Baton Rouge district attorney, who had a close relationship with the chief. "I hope that Baton Rouge is able to find a chief that has all of Carl’s talent, work ethic, fairness, passion for criminal justice and demeanor."
Moore said he hoped Broome's chief would be committed to implementing "best practices" and stressing the importance of "data-driven" approaches to crime fighting.
Dabadie grew up in Baker the son of a Baton Rouge police officer and spent a lifetime influenced by the law enforcement community. He knew early on that he would go on to follow in the footsteps of his father, Lt. Carl Dabadie Sr., who died in an on-duty motorcycle wreck in 1984.
"I admired him growing up for all that he did," Dabadie has said of his father. "I never had any doubt this is what I wanted to do."
Dabadie was appointed police chief by former Mayor-President Kip Holden in August 2013, after he had served a brief time as interim chief following the acrimonious departure of the prior chief, Dewayne White, amid a public dispute between White and Holden.
Dabadie noted his gratitude to Holden in his statement Monday. The former mayor, in turn, blasted Broome's role in Dabadie's departure in an interview Monday.
"She made a decision on a good man, a good person, a good law enforcement officer, and it will come back to haunt her," Holden said.
Sgt. Bryan Taylor, the head of the Baton Rouge Union of Police, also had pointed words over the way Dabadie had been treated over the past year. Without naming Broome directly, Taylor said he didn't think Dabadie "was shown the respect he deserved as chief of police nor the respect he deserved as a police officer and as a man."
Dabadie's replacement, Taylor said, should come from within the ranks of BRPD, a position he's expressed on a number of prior occasions.
"I've got to compliment Chief Dabadie," Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso said. "He was a great man and a great police chief, and he will be very sorely missed."
"I have some hard concerns about this mayor's ability to be able to pick someone," Amoroso said, noting that Broome is still operating with an interim chief administrative officer.
He said he has seen no indication that she's been working to find a new police chief.
"I'm very nervous about that," Amoroso said. "It's a very important position that needs to be filled, and I hope she has been quietly gathering national resumes behind the scenes."
Advocate staff writers Andrea Gallo, Rebekah Allen and Steve Hardy contributed to this report.
Not seeing the video below? Click here.
For years after he cheated death, Sgt. Myron Daniels recalled the shooting every time he but…
The current East Baton Rouge mayor-president and the man she replaced both addressed the Ba…
Responding to Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's call to fire the officer who killed Alt…