Police chief: Area school system abusing its power
BAKER - Thousands of dollars in grant money for the D.A.R.E. program in Baker will be left on the table after the city did not adequately complete requirements to get $22,000 it was awarded.
The Baker Police Chief believes dirty politics are to blame with adults putting themselves ahead of children.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit began looking into this when an anonymous source tipped us off back in March. A public records request sent by the Investigative Unit on March 29, 2018, revealed Baker did not complete any D.A.R.E. classes in the public school system and would not be receiving the award.
Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn said his D.A.R.E. officer, Demarcus Dunn, ran into problems every time he tried to go to the public schools to teach.
"He was always given an excuse," Chief Dunn said. "'We're not ready yet, can you come back? We may be going in a different direction.' He was given different explanations each time he went."
The City of Baker will not collect $18,000 since it did not fulfill the requirements for the grant.
"It's abuse of power because it's used to hurt kids at this time," Dunn said.
Baker School Superintendent Dr. Herman Brister was unavailable for a television interview but late Monday afternoon he released a statement to WBRZ.
"The D.A.R.E. program has been a rich program in the City of Baker and across East Baton Rouge Parish," Brister said. "At no time did anyone in the school system ever deny the D.A.R.E. program into the City of Baker School System."
We asked if any classrooms were made available and whether times were allotted for the kids to learn about D.A.R.E. Brister would not answer those questions only saying the program was welcome in the schools.
But Brister's comments contradict a time-stamped text message dated August 25, 2017, when Demarcus Dunn first began running into problems. The text that Brister received and responded to was written by Chief Dunn to Brister over his concerns that principals were waiting to hear from him before D.A.R.E. could start.
"...to hold the kid's hostage from honest sincere officers that truly love and want the best for them is not right at all," Dunn messaged. "There is no problem with D.A.R.E. in the schools."
Dunn told WBRZ, this is not the first time the school system has played politics. Last year, they said they couldn't afford a resource officer in their schools. When Baker Police offered to do it for free, Dunn says the Baker School System turned down that offer.
That caused things to come to a head this year when Austin Trusclair, a Baker school teacher, was attacked. That attack was caught on video.
"There's no protection," Trusclair said. "There's no resource officer on campus. As a result of that, I'm in fear that if another student attacks me, I would have to defend myself."
Trusclair said at the time that he was speaking up because other teachers were also afraid. At the time, Brister defended the school system.
"I haven't had a situation where a teacher has come to me or a school board member or anyone else that said they were not safe in the school," Brister said.
With no clear answers as to why this happened, the administrator of the D.A.R.E. grant said there was no way Baker was getting that money.
"It's money we are not going to let them spend," Bob Wertz said. Wertz works for the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement.
Wertz added that future grants could be affected in the City of Baker.
"It's a disservice," Wertz said. "Not only for the classes that should have been taught but also because the officers that teach those are role models for the young kids. It can be a positive role model that develops a lifelong relationship with those kids and that was not done in this case."
The grant called for D.A.R.E. to be taught at five schools in Baker. Since only one charter school accepted the teachings, Baker will receive about $2,000 in reimbursements from the D.A.R.E. grant.