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BRPD Narcotics officer exposes wrongdoing, coverups and quotas in bombshell interview with Nakamoto

1 month 3 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, April 28 2021 Apr 28, 2021 April 28, 2021 3:22 PM April 28, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ TV

BATON ROUGE- Planting drugs, coverups, quotas, a term called "snapping" - it is how the Baton Rouge drug squad handled itself, a former officer told WBRZ in a tell-all interview.

WATCH WBRZ NEWS 2 AT 6:00 AND 10:00 WEDNESDAY FOR A TWO-PART INVESTIGATION – STREAM THE NEWS LIVE HERE

Click HERE to see an archive of WBRZ Investigative Unit and Chris Nakamoto reports on the Baton Rouge Police drug squad: WBRZ broke the news first in December.  Nearly a dozen follow-up reports are part of the exclusive reporting from Channel 2.

Jeremiah Ardoin did not shield his identity and said he wanted to expose the truth in an explosive conversation with WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto recently.  What he said in a TV interview has only been heard directly from a small group: The FBI, the Baton Rouge Police Chief and Nakamoto.  What he has told each person has resulted in a department investigation, officer transfers, a police officer’s arrest and hundreds of drug charges being dismissed.

Ardoin could be considered a whistleblower but has his own issues as he grapples with shining light on a department he said he no longer trusts and facing misdemeanor charges after being arrested for buying stolen merchandise on the street.  Ardoin believes his arrest was a setup, a predetermined event his colleagues orchestrated when they got wind he wanted out of the wrongdoing he alleges has been going on in the police department’s drug unit.

Among his concerns, a quota system that targeted minorities.

"At least three to four nights a week they would have us riding through the neighborhoods," Ardoin said. "If you saw a random black person walking around the street and hasn't done anything, they would tell us just to jump out the vehicle, grab them and pat them down without probable cause. I voiced my opinions several times, and I didn't agree with that."

He had enough and was planning a transfer out of the unit.  Then, in December 2020, he was arrested.  After being charged, he started cooperating with department investigators probing allegations of wrong doing.  His cooperation led to the arrest of his colleague, Jason Acree, another BRPD narcotics officer charged with malfeasance for stealing drugs.

Ardoin is now talking to the WBRZ Investigative Unit in an exclusive interview that will have ramifications for the Baton Rouge Police Department and prosecutors trying to determine how many additional drug charges need to be dismissed.

WBRZ made an editorial decision to release aspects of the interview before it was broadcast to allow the department ample time to respond. 

Baton Rouge Police released a statement Wednesday from Police Chief Murphy Paul: 

"While we would like to address some of the assertions being reported by Mr. Ardoin, the Department is in the midst of active criminal and administrative investigations related to his reports. Thus, we cannot discuss any specific points being made by Mr. Ardoin."

"What I can do, however, is assure the community that we have and will continue to take the appropriate actions, as these investigations progress. As we strive to strengthen trust in our community, the Baton Rouge Police Department is committed to transparency, accountability, and integrity. I look forward to providing our community with a full report once these investigations are concluded."    

                                                         CONCERNS RAISED

Jeremiah Ardoin first began sounding the alarm about concerns in the narcotics division in the fall of 2020. He said that conversation was with BRPD administration about the type of drug cases they were doing and how he was unhappy with them. He did not give specifics at the time but did express concerns about squad operations. 

Ardoin said not long after the August meeting, he requested a transfer. Before he could be moved, Ardoin said his supervisors caught wind that he had complained to BRPD administration. That's when he said he was approached by a woman who sold him two cameras and a television.

                                                         ARDOIN'S ARREST

Ardoin was arrested in December of 2020 for possession of stolen things.

"It was two Ring floodlight cameras and a TV," Ardoin said. "It was about $500. It was a brand new package in the box, still had plastic wrap around the items, Styrofoam in the boxes. It wasn't something I would have known was stolen."

Ardoin said he arrived at work one morning and was contacted by detectives informing him that the items he purchased were stolen.

"As time went on, I started looking into things," Ardoin said. "I realized the informant, the person that I purchased items from, was a confidential informant for detective Jason Acree."

Ardoin said he believes his arrest was a setup for going to BRPD administration earlier in the year.

"They realized I had spoken to administration and it could possibly cause them from being moved out of the division," Ardoin said.

                                  ARDOIN COOPERATES WITH BRPD INVESTIGATION

Following Ardoin's arrest, he told investigators everything he believed was concerning within the drug force.  He said, it included him hearing colleagues discussing planting drugs on people.

"I addressed what they call, 'snapping,'" Ardoin said. "Jumping out on random people and things like that."

He told investigators he watched his colleague, Jason Acree, steal drugs from the evidence room.  Ultimately, Acree was arrested for malfeasance in office, drug charges and obstruction of justice.

"We were working a parcel, which we do often, for FedEx," Ardoin said. "We made an arrest relative to a large quantity of marijuana. Several vacuumed sealed bags. When we arrived into the processing room to package the evidence I observed Acree cut open one of the Ziplock bags with a pocket knife, and he went and retrieved smaller Ziplock baggies and placed the marijuana inside that bag as well as some thc vape pens, cartridges, and he made a statement that he was bringing the drugs to his friend and his friend liked the vape cartridges and has brought it to him on other occasions. After he packaged it, he resealed the vacuumed sealed baggie with evidence tape, and he took the drugs and had taken them outside to his unit."

Ardoin said others within the narcotics division also witnessed this, but he was the only one who spoke up.

"He's made comments about planting drugs on other people when he arrested them," Ardoin said. "He would oftentimes joke about search warrants being dry. He brings his own supply of things of that nature, and he's also made comments about stopping people after they made a drug transaction and planting drugs on them to make the arrest."

Ardoin said the supervisors knew what was happening.

"The supervisors in the office were the ones that allowed him to do those things, and I believe they were aware of the things going on," Ardoin said.

Four high-ranking supervisors- two lieutenants and two sergeants - were transferred out of the narcotics division and moved to uniform patrol. WBRZ has made an editorial decision to not identify them because they have not been accused of any wrongdoing as of April 28, 2021.

                                                UNWRITTEN POLICY ABOUT QUOTAS

Ardoin said during his four-year stint in the narcotics division, officers were required to make one drug arrest per shift. Ardoin recalled that mandate was verbal and would not be found written in any policy.

"At least three to four nights a week they would have us riding through the neighborhoods," Ardoin said. "If you saw a random black person walking around the street and hasn't done anything, they would tell us just to jump out the vehicle, grab them and pat them down without probable cause. I voiced my opinions several times, and I didn't agree with that."

Ardoin said the direction came from supervisors in the narcotics administration.

"We normally ride two people to a vehicle and each person had to have one arrest before the end of the shift," Ardoin said.

Questioned that it sounded like a quota, Ardoin said that is how it was organized. 

"You can look at it as a quota," Ardoin said. "Basically, from the supervisors, they would tell us if we didn't like it we could transfer out. I think one of the main reasons was because when we were working those patrols, there was an overtime assignment."

                                      CASES DISMISSED AND GROWING FALLOUT

Months after the arrests of Ardoin and Acree, District Attorney Hillar Moore's office dismissed 640 drug charges for defendants with pending cases.  Moore has told the WBRZ Investigative Unit figuring out when the corruption first began is challenging.  Prosecutors are trying to determine how far back they have to go to take a look at charges that need to be dismissed. Ardoin said he expects the number of charges that are ultimately dismissed to reach the thousands.

"I'm here because I need to share my story," Ardoin said. "I was speaking out long before this happened and that's why the things they did to me happened, but when I was speaking out, pretty much fell on deaf ears until it got to this point."

Attorneys representing Ardoin said the far-reaching implications of what Ardoin is saying have been reported to the FBI.

"Think about what this has cost," attorney Ron Haley said. "This cost folks jobs, housing, the bond money put up to post in some of these cases, attorneys fees to defend these cases, and these are things folks can't get back."

Attorney Dedrick Moore who is also working the case echoed those sentiments and believes a number of reforms need to be made.

"The process in how evidence is maintained has to be revamped," Moore, the attorney, said. "It's quite the oxymoron when police officers have quite the reputation within these communities that they are sworn to protect and individuals can call them by names for having done things that are improper, illegal and violate the community's constitutional rights."

On Thursday, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's office released a statement in response to Nakamoto's interview with Ardoin. 

"The recent allegations levied by a former Baton Rouge Police Department narcotics officer are concerning to say the least. They allege a serious violation of public trust by some who are sworn to serve and protect our community.

As Chief Murphy Paul stated this week, these allegations are being taken seriously, and the Department is currently conducting a criminal and administrative investigation related to them. If the investigation determines the allegations are true, then those responsible for wrongdoing must be held accountable.

Since my time as Mayor, I have worked hard to build public trust with the Baton Rouge Police Department. I have instituted policies to improve accountability and transparency in order to close the gap between our community and law enforcement. Much of the resistance and pushback that has been publicly shown by a select few has been due to the implementation of these principles. Yet, we now see those principles at work in this case and will communicate the findings of this investigation once it is complete.

I continue to be grateful to the vast majority of our police officers who are committed to these principles. I am also grateful to the community which continues to hold us to the highest standards.

When wrongdoing occurs, it must be brought to light in order for us to move forward."

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