BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The arrests of two officers within BRPD’s Narcotics Division have left prosecutors looking into just how many people with drug and weapons charges were wrongly charged or convicted and the evidence gathered so far indicates there’s likely a lot more to surface.
In recent weeks, District Attorney Hilar Moore has been dropping charges against any defendant whose pending cases are linked to the two officers within the BRPD Narcotics Division who were arrested earlier this year. The current number is now at 640 cases. Officer Jerimiah Ardoin was arrested for purchasing stolen electronics. Then, Officer Jason Acree was accused of stealing drugs that were seized as evidence and was later booked on a charge of possession with intent to distribute.
“This is just part of the experience of being within the criminal justice system; there are some bad apples,” said Jarrett Ambeau, a criminal defense attorney. “And those people who are in the positions of power that officers have and are a bad apple, you affect the liberty of individuals every single day.”
He stated there’s a big distinction between taking the stand and saying something that’s not true versus officers doing illegal and sneaky things on the job.
“The reason those are different is that taking the stand and saying something that’s not true can be dealt with in the courtroom and on a case-by-case basis. But when you start to have a lack of faith in the way that someone is behaving on the street, that causes serious problems because now you have defendants coming into court facing evidence that’s not actually true,” Ambeau explained.
In a memo written by Ardoin, he alleged more widespread corruption in the narcotics division, claiming some of his fellow officers routinely stopped and searched Black people without any probable cause, planted drugs on people, and coerced prostitutes into setting up drug dealers.
“When something like this happens and, it’s generally harmful to the whole system, it’s even more so to those suffering bias under the system,” Ambeau added.
Since those two arrests, four high-ranking narcotics officers have been reassigned to uniform patrol and the division has undergone a significant review of its personnel but Ambeau said more needs to be done in order to maintain the public’s trust.
“I think you prosecute the officers that took part in illegal activity, I think you definitely do that. You drop the cases that need to be dropped, you dismiss the cases that are based on their behavior, and then lastly, you do exactly what they’ve done - you remake the department,” Ambeau pointed out.
He said letting situations like this occur without any consequence would ultimately end any faith the public has in the police department.
“We want police officers to take a stand and tell the truth and if they’re willing to take a stand and lie, if they’re willing to undertake illegal activity on the street to frame people, then that is fundamentally not who we are or how our criminal justice system works and when you do that, your liberty can be taken just as easy as mine,” Ambeau explained.
Ardoin and Acree are both currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of their cases.
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