Human Rights

In Stunning Act of Defiance, Baton Rouge Police Chief Refuses Mayor's Request to Fire Officer Who Killed Alton Sterling

Carl Dabadie says terminating the officer would be "improper."

NEW YORK CITY - JULY 7 2016: Several thousand activists rallied & marched to protest recent police-involved shootings in Minnesota & Louisiana.
Photo Credit: A Katz/Shutterstock

Tensions continue to rise between the Baton Rouge Police Department and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome over an investigation into the killing of Alton Sterling last July, as police chief Carl Dabadie has refused to terminate one of the officers involved in the shooting.

According to reporting from the Advocate, Broome sent Dabadie a letter May 25 asking him to fire officer Blane Salamoni and reconsider paid administrative leave and disciplinary action against a second officer involved in Sterling’s death, Howie Lake II. Broome was reportedly influenced by a letter sent by the attorneys for Sterling’s children pressuring her to fire Salamoni.

In a response sent the next day, Dabadie refused to honor Broome’s request and remove Salamoni from the force, writing that it would be “improper” to discipline the officer while the department’s investigation is still in progress. Dabadie added it was important to rely on “due process” and wait for all the evidence to be gathered.

The investigation is being conducted by the office of the Louisiana Attorney General, Jeff Landry, after the Department of Justice decided in early May it would not pursue civil rights charges against either Salamoni or Lake. Landry’s office will be investigating whether the officers’ actions violated Louisiana state law.

With Dabadie’s refusal to fire Salamoni and the Justice Department’s decision not to press charges against the two officers, Salamoni and Lake are unlikely to face any legal consequences for their actions. Louisiana’s police bill of rights and Baton Rouge’s police union contract also protects officers against investigations, creating even more barriers to accountability. Some of this legislation includes delaying interrogations, allowing officers access to the entire investigation and erasing misconduct records after a period of time. Extensive research also indicates law enforcement officials are unlikely to face conviction for fatal shootings.

This is not the first time Broome, who is Baton Rouge’s first black female mayor, and Dabadie have clashed on police policy and the disciplining of officer misconduct. After a BRPD officer was suspended for sending racist text messages, Broome said the officer should be fired and reiterated the need for leadership change at the police department.

Reforming the BRPD and replacing Dabadie as chief was a priority for Broome during her mayoral campaign. However, efforts to do so have been stymied by civil service protections that prohibit the mayor from firing the police chief without just cause.

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Celisa Calacal is a journalist from Los Angeles. She is a writing fellow for the Independent Media Institute and a news intern with KCUR in Kansas City. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Ithaca College, where she worked as an editor and reporter for the Ithacan. Her writing has appeared in ThinkProgress, AlterNet, and Salon. Follow Celisa on Twitter @celisa_mia.