BATON ROUGE – In a rare attempt to confront potential controversy head-on, the Baton Rouge Police Department clarified a social media post that circulated over the weekend showing officers dressed in plain clothes and wearing dark face paint 26 years ago.
The image was taken of undercover officers conducting a department-approved sting targeting drug dealers, Baton Rouge Police said in its statement.
Police deflected any controversy that the images should be construed as officers in blackface. But, apologized that the photograph from 1993 could be considered such.
“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive. They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today. The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs,” the department said.
The image comes amid a wave of controversy surrounding elected officials in other states having to explain photographs of themselves in blackface.
Police said the photographs in the post were taken more than 25 years ago.
“Administratively, the department cannot apply existing policies to conduct that happened before the policies were in place. Policies that were existing at the time of the behavior would have to be applied. The department is bound by the Louisiana Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which places a timeline on administrative investigations related to officer conduct.”
The department said officers today would not be able to dress in such outfits for an undercover operation, however.
“We have policies in place to prevent our officers from engaging in this type of behavior both on and off-duty.”
New training practices, unrelated to the photograph, are also planned within the department.
“Our BRPD Training Staff recently returned from Oakland Stockton, California where they received training on Procedural Justice Policing. The Procedural Justice Program will be part of the training academy curriculum for new BRPD officers, as well as our annual in-service training for all Baton Rouge Police Officers. The Baton Rouge Police Department is diligently working to apply 21st Century Policing best practices and standards to our agency.”
Click HERE to read the entire statement.
The mayor added in a separate comment her thoughts, echoing the chief that policies have changed since the early 1990s: "While this may have been department-approved 25 years ago, that does not make it right. Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation."
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