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WBRZ report center stage at council meeting

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BATON ROUGE- A noose was used as a prop at an East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting Wednesday evening as race issues within the Baton Rouge Police Department took center stage.

The issue centers around an exclusive report by the WBRZ Investigative Unit where an officer was accused of sending racist text messages. Some of those messages called African Americans monkeys, the n word, and said he enjoyed arresting people with sagging pants. The officer, Michael Elsbury, quit one day after the story. However, days later, he was allowed to amend his resignation letter to reflect he was going to retire.

The major issue at the council meeting was that letter and why Elsbury was allowed to change it. A member from the retirement board told council members it would have no impact whether he resigned or retired in terms of the benefits he paid into the system. So, some questioned why he was allowed to change it.

"Its been the policy of the city parish to let anyone who wants to change it to resign to retire," Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel said. "We have done that. I don't know if it's in writing."

During the heat of discussions, Arthur Reed, also known as "Silky Slim," held up a noose to get his point across.

"If we don't look at this issue, we can get ready to put this noose around our neck," Reed said.

Also Wednesday, it was revealed there was a meeting after the racist text messages came to light.  The meeting was among white officers but Elsbury's African American supervisor was not part of the meeting. 

When asked if any African Americans were in the meeting, Police Chief Carl Dabadie responded, "no."

Dabadie was also asked about why Elsbury was allowed to change the letter.

"It had been done in the past, and done before for other officers," Dabadie said.

As concern grows, some now believe the issue is part of a bigger problem involving race in the department.

"To allow him to come change the letter and not tell the public, it seems like something is going on.  Where there's smoke, there's fire," Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said.

Last month, Dabadie said he would force all officers to take sensitivity training.

Some council members believe since Elsbury retired and was not fired or resigned, it will be much easier for him to get another job in law enforcement.

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