BRPD motorcycle stock

Advocate file photo of Baton Rouge police motorcycles

An attorney involved in litigation against the Baton Rouge Police Department has released some department emails from a few years ago that included the n-word, a racist slur that has no place among those pledged to protect and serve the public.

The emails surfaced after a public records request seeking any messages containing the racial slur were sent to and from official police department accounts. The controversial exchanges unearthed by the request happened in 2014 and 2015 and involved accounts belonging to white officers.

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The dates in question aren’t ancient history, and that racial insults would be used in connection with the email accounts of a public agency suggests a disturbingly casual embrace of bigotry.

The hateful references in the BRPD emails appear to be isolated incidents, and the two officers involved were ordered to complete training on the effects of racism.

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A 2016 shooting in which Alton Sterling, an armed black man, died after struggling with two white BRPD officers drew international attention and prompted widespread protests. A disturbed Missouri gunman compounded the tragedy by shooting six Baton Rouge law enforcement officers in a twisted response to the Sterling case, killing three of the officers and seriously injuring another one.

Lengthy federal and state probes of the Sterling case yielded no charges against the officers involved, although BRPD Chief Murphy Paul recently fired Blane Salamoni, the officer who shot Sterling.

That controversy has underscored broader racial tensions within and beyond the BRPD. The newly discovered emails show how much work the department still has to do in making all residents feel the department works for them, regardless of color.

Law enforcement is a tough job, and we’re grateful for the many officers who undertake their duties with respect and honor for the community they serve, daily risking their lives in the bargain.

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Those good men and women are also compromised when their fellow officers behave badly. If an officer in the 21st century needs sensitivity training to grasp that racial slurs are off-limits, especially in workplace emails, we must wonder if he should wear a badge in the first place.