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Commissioner who oversees State Police discipline under investigation for alleged corruption

2 years 2 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, March 30 2022 Mar 30, 2022 March 30, 2022 7:18 PM March 30, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - A State Police Commission member is under investigation as part of an inquiry into questionable extra duty by police officers in New Orleans.

The State Police Commission oversees troopers' employment and manages discipline.  The commission meets monthly in Baton Rouge.  New Orleans Police Capt. Sabrina Richardson is a member of the commission.

Watchdogs believe this is not a good look for State Police, and Richardson should step down.

"The fact now that it’s been publicly disclosed that Capt. Richardson is under an internal investigation within the police department and also allegedly under investigation by law enforcement external to the police department for possible criminal violations, I think that that should trigger her voluntary resignation," Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission said.

New Orleans media have reported on an NOPD investigation involving Richardson related to a wider-spread probe into participation in paid, off-duty police details.  WBRZ and Investigative Unit Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto linked Richardson to her Baton Rouge and government committee assignment Wednesday.

Richardson was appointed to the powerful internal State Police commission by the governor.  The commission hears State Police matters and can ratify or overturn discipline imposed on Louisiana State Troopers.

Richardson's membership on the commission comes amid scrutiny of State Police and various excessive force complaints exposed by WBRZ and Nakamoto's years-long reporting.  Richardson heard testimony in February 2021 when a disgraced trooper asked to be reinstated after excessive force investigations.  His attorney argued, State Police should instead investigate how Nakamoto and WBRZ were able to obtain information from with-in the agency.

"[Jacob] Brown was arrested Monday, and before we reached the jail WBRZ was already reporting the arrest," the trooper's attorney, Scott Wolleson said, at the time.

The commission has yet to make any decisions on discipline related to the in-custody death of Ronald Greene, though numerous sources and lawmakers have expressed concern in how high-ranking State Police officials or appointees would handle the situation amid numerous WBRZ reports of the agency organizing a cover-up of Greene's death.

Greene died in Monroe in May of 2019. A special legislative committee was convened to look into his death and to find out who knew what and when.

Richardson, the State Police Commission member under investigation for possible wrongdoing associated with her job at NOPD, was appointed to the commission on Nov. 13, 2020. Her term expires Dec. 5, 2023. Richardson represents Louisiana's second congressional district, which covers mostly New Orleans but weaves along the Mississippi River into downtown Baton Rouge.

"The whole idea of having that independent, pristine board is to apply the highest ethical standards to the State Police investigations that result in some type of discipline," Goyeneche said. "Usually you don’t have somebody that is under investigation serving on a board in the capacity of Capt. Richardson right now."

While at NOPD, Richardson used to run the department's Public Integrity Bureau—which investigates claims of wrongdoing in the NOPD—and once served as a spokeswoman for the agency.

The NOPD said its investigation is ongoing but no determination regarding any potential violations have been made. 

The entire NOPD statement is below

There is an active administrative investigation underway related to Captain Sabrina Richardson’s participation in the secondary employment program through the Office of Police Secondary Employment. 

That investigation is being conducted by a member of the command staff not affiliated with the Public Integrity Bureau. 

The investigation is ongoing. But no determination regarding any potential violations has been made as of this time. 

New Orleans TV station WVUE reported the FBI is involved in the probe and at least five NOPD officers received target letters. 

Executive Director of the State Police Commission Jason Hannaman said he has no authority to adjust Richardson's position on the commission.  Hannaman said he just learned this week that Richardson was placed under investigation.

The Louisiana Constitution gives authority to remove a commission member to the governor.  WBRZ asked Gov. John Bel Edwards' office for comment but has not received a response.

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