It’s almost like we’re in Sharon Weston Broome’s head at this point. Either that or she’s become completely predictable.
Earlier today, in noting that Broome is beginning to catch more and more negative notices from the local press in town we talked about the mayor-president’s so-far-unsuccessful campaign to seize control of the Baton Rouge Police Department, and what’s coming next with respect to that…
There was the mayor’s insistence on firing Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, though she doesn’t have the power to do so per civil service rules. Dabadie hasn’t gone anywhere, and at this point it seems he delights in persisting on the job out of spite to Broome. That may be changing, given that a Baton Rouge cop named Blaine Dupuy was caught sending a text message joking that Alton Sterling protesters are “chimping out” – a racially-tinged message which has landed Dupuy on suspension and given Broome new reason to push for Dabadie’s head. Everyone knows what’s coming – Broome is building a case that BRPD is a racist institution and it’s Dabadie’s fault, and that would be cause for his firing. Meanwhile good cops are leaving the force to take jobs with suburban police departments, and an undermanned force get more undermanned all the time.
It’s not hard to see how that prediction will be reality soon given what happened not long after that post went live here. Which was that the lawyers representing the family of Alton Sterling made a demand that Broome fire Blaine Salamoni, the policeman involved in the Alton Sterling shooting, a demand they’d already made, and she responded with this…
Broome had her press secretary issue the letter to all the city’s politicians and media, which suggests this was an orchestrated move aimed at making a political statement – and more than that, it’s a piece of the strategy she’s pursuing with respect to Dabadie as the police chief.
She’s demanding that Salamoni be fired – he’s currently on paid administrative leave – and if Dabadie refuses, then that refusal coupled with this text-message joke business involving the other police officer becomes part of a case that he’s running a racist police department and he can be fired for cause.
Particularly when you remember the mayor’s previous push to institute hug-a-thug policing in town, something which is coming just as the city’s murder rate spirals out of control quite possibly as a function of what’s been called the “Ferguson Effect” in the wake of the Sterling shooting, this starts to be clear. Broome wants Dabadie out, and she wants someone she and her crowd are more comfortable with, and this is how she’s going to clear the way for it.
Is Dabadie running a racist police force? If you believe that’s what BRPD is then you’ll see this as a perfectly valid move on Broome’s part. You can then explain how the city will be better off if the same genius who hired Troy Bell as the chief administrative officer gets to make the police chief hire, but you wouldn’t be fundamentally wrong in saying a chief who runs a racist police force ought not have the job.
Either way, what’s coming is Broome’s letter to Dabadie demanding that he offer up Salamoni or else she’s going to chop off his head. If Dabadie sacrifices Salamoni, it might resolve the issue, but it will also resolve the issue of his independence from the mayor as well – he’ll be effectively subordinated, and he’ll know that either he gives in to her follow-on demands or he’s out. And if he’s out and fights it through the civil service infrastructure, the chaos it will cause within the police department could leave that force in tatters – and that’s going to be blamed on Dabadie as well. The damage is already pretty severe, as police academy applications are down 60 percent.
One way or another, the BRPD is now a political trophy. Broome is going to make it hers. Whether she can maintain it at its current level of effectiveness, which the experts seem to think is a bit less likely than her turning it into a smaller version of the ruined New Orleans Police Department, is something for the future to tell us.