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Watchdogs question discipline of trooper who improperly ran names through databases

6 years 11 months 1 day ago Wednesday, July 19 2017 Jul 19, 2017 July 19, 2017 4:45 PM July 19, 2017 in The Investigative Unit
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- A high ranking Louisiana State Police Lieutenant, Robert Burns II, was suspended for 64 hours recently after an investigation revealed he ran 52 searches in law enforcement databases for personal reasons, a violation of LSP policy and federal law.

In speaking with the WBRZ Investigative Unit Wednesday about the situation, law enforcement watchdogs said the punishment equates to a slap on the wrist and think Burns should be prosecuted for violating federal law.

"I've seen law enforcement prosecuted for less than what occurred in this particular case," Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission said.

Problems for Burns emerged last month when he was served a letter notifying him of an impending suspension.

"Since November of 2013, continuing until October 2016, you have conducted law enforcement search inquiries through Kologic and Mobile Cop for non-law enforcement purposes, in violation of department policy and federal law," the letter states.

The letter goes on to say, Burns ran his ex-wife's name 46 times; her current fiance twice and the name of the woman's former boyfriend four times. WBRZ made the editorial decision not to identify the individuals. 

The letter Burns received states he acknowledged the search. 

"You admitted that 51 of the 52 searches, referenced above, were for strictly personal reasons and not related to any investigation," the letter said.

The police letter goes on to say, "You were aware that what you were doing was against department policy when you texted that she should not tell anyone because you could get fired for doing so."

"Fifty-two times over a two-year period of time tracking his former wife and some of her acquaintances...that's tantamount to stalking," Goyeneche said.

The problem is no stranger to federal prosecutors. In 2013, they unsuccessfully tried a case against Former Alcohol Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter after he was accused of running names in a statewide database. A federal jury acquitted him, but the trial showed the feds don't tolerate this behavior.

We requested an interview with Colonel Kevin Reeves. A spokesperson said he wouldn't be doing an interview, because he said this happened under former Colonel Mike Edmonson's administration. He also said any discipline came from Edmonson's administration. But the documents we have tell a different story, showing the discipline actually occurred under Kevin Reeves administration.

"This is the integrity and credibility of the State Police," Goyeneche said. "The buck stops with him. I think (Colonel Kevin Reeves) should make himself available to discuss this type of discipline."

The Investigative Unit learned Burns' ex-wife filed the complaints that launched this internal affairs investigation. Four of them were sustained after State Police looked into it.  Watchdogs believe State Police need to turn this case over to federal authorities.

"Normally something like this would result in a more serious suspension and possibly a demotion as well," Goyeneche said.

The Investigative Unit asked State Police if the case was turned over to federal authorities but that question was never answered. Late Wednesday afternoon, State Police sent over Lieutenant Burns response to the investigation. The response indicated he accepts responsibility and said he'll never run names unnecessarily again. He also said his system may have had a computer glitch because he couldn't recall running a certain name on January 31, 2014 and  January 31, 2015.

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