Nearly a year after initial WBRZ and Nakamoto reports on corruption, BRPD drug squad is disbanded
BATON ROUGE – After a year of turmoil, the Baton Rouge Police narcotics division is without officers as the agency works with federal authorities to rebuild a department that’s been the focus of a corruption investigation since late 2020.
The division as we once knew it has been disbanded. Instead, about 20 law enforcement officers from street crimes and intelligence will fill the old office space that narcotics once did.
"It actually happened this week," Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said Tuesday.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit led by Chris Nakamoto were first to confirm the empty division. This story first appeared on WBRZ.com Tuesday morning.
All officers have been moved out of the narcotics division, and its head is retiring, police confirmed. Approximately nine officers were in narcotics before corruption was brought to light. Two of them resigned, and a third was fired.
"It was important for us to cease those operations until we can allow that investigative process to conclude before decisions can be made," Paul said.
Instead, a new unit will be created from officers assigned from the Street Crimes Division and the Intelligence Division and will be organized based on a partnership with the DEA.
"There will still be narcotics investigations, let me be clear," Paul said. "Our focus is on mid to upper-level drug dealers. Our focus will be on those individuals involved in drugs and violent crime."
The Street Crimes Division is an elite group of experienced officers who work some of the most dangerous streets in Baton Rouge and attempt to intercept criminals before or in the immediate aftermath of committing violent crime.
Police have said the group that now reports out of the old narcotics building will report to the commander of the Violent Crime Unit.
"All of those units will be working under the same roof, and will have the same chain of command as it relates to intelligence as it relates to group violence and shooting incidents in the City of Baton Rouge."
The group formerly charged with investigating drug deals on the streets of Baton Rouge fell apart after a wave of controversies, starting with the arrest of Jason Acree, a then-34-year-old police officer and 12-year veteran of the force who was accused of corruption and taking seized drugs.
A Nakamoto bombshell interview with a former narcotics officer sent shockwaves through the criminal justice system in East Baton Rouge when officer Jeremiah Ardoin said officers used a quota system to target minorities, among other things.
"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 had previously been arrested for buying stolen merchandise from someone in what Ardoin said was a set-up by his colleagues who got word he was trying to blow the whistle on department issues late last year.
Prosecutors have dismissed hundreds of cases and nearly 1,000 charges related to the corruption allegations.
Following the string of controversies, Baton Rouge Police launched an audit to look at how to best make changes. That audit is still underway and is expected to wrap up in November.
"I'm proud of this community and the great men and women who wear this uniform and the great work that our police officers are doing everyday," Paul said.
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