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Discipline record accuses cop of telling store clerk: 'Don't call the Baton Rouge Police Department'

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BATON ROUGE - An 11-year-veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department with a checkered disciplinary history recently received a "letter of caution" for allegedly trying to walk out of a store near Baker with items he didn't purchase.

Documents obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show the Texaco on Scotland Avenue reported Corporal Jeffrey Coleman for trying to walk out with a lemon cake and Powerade when the clerk caught him.

"I don't pay for this stuff, we get it free," Coleman was quoted as telling the worker in the documents. The clerk responded that the store gives uniformed officers free fountain drinks and coffee.

According to Coleman's disciplinary file obtained through a public records request by WBRZ, he responded: "That's fine. The next time an armed robber comes into the store, don't call the Baton Rouge Police Department."

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie issued Coleman a "letter of caution" saying his conduct was "unbecoming of an officer."

East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado calls the letter of caution, or a letter of reprimand, appropriate.

"I think the chief handled it properly," Delgado said.

However, not everyone agrees. Paul Guidry is a criminal justice instructor at an area college. He is deeply troubled by the discipline this officer received.

"It takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole bunch," Guidry said. "Chief Dabadie needs to stand up and start making examples out of some of these individuals."

Since this incident, The Investigative Unit learned the service station no longer provides free coffee and fountain drinks to uniformed officers.

The items that almost got snatched from the store were just the most recent of Coleman's troubles. Internal affairs paperwork obtained by the Investigative Unit paint a disturbing picture of how the officer has been able to avoid serious consequences for other run ins with the law.

In October 2011, Coleman was involved in a hit-and-run with his police unit near Southern University. It was not reported to his supervisors, according to the documents.

Four days later in November 2011, he was involved in another hit-and-run. In this situation, he was in his personal vehicle and the wreck involved a school bus that was dropping off a child. The paperwork reported Coleman hit the stop sign on the side of the bus as Coleman drove around the bus. Coleman was charged with hit-and-run.

For both incidents, Coleman was given a 30-day suspension and lost his police car for three months.

"It shows to the other officers, if you don't punish this guy correctly and just give a letter of caution, the other officers are going to learn from that and say 'I can do this and that and get away with it,'" Guidry said upset over the discipline.

Coleman's disciplinary file also indicates he was cited for causing a preventable crash and was once reported by a colleague for intimidation.

For this story, WBRZ requested an interview with Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, but a spokesman said Dabadie declined since this was a disciplinary issue.

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