BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A sergeant in the Baton Rouge Police Department was placed on administrative leave last week.
The East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender is making a statement about the investigation into “racist statements allegedly made by a sergeant with the Baton Rouge Police Department.”
The full statement is below:
The East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender (OPDBR) is deeply disturbed by the hostile, racist statements allegedly made by a sergeant with the Baton Rouge Police Department. The disregard in those statements for the value of Black and Brown lives in this community is unacceptable. While we are pleased to see the swift condemnation of such hatred by other stakeholders in the criminal legal system, this revelation is unfortunately neither rare nor unique in today’s society. In the pursuit of a fairer and more just Baton Rouge, condemnation of racism in our institutions is not enough. While there certainly must be a swift and thorough investigation of this alleged conduct, the Office of the Public Defender is calling on its fellow stakeholders to work with our office to conduct an immediate review of every arrest ever made by this officer. While this investigation is ongoing, justice requires the immediate release of any man, woman, or child held in jail where Officer Kuhn was involved in their arrest.
As public defenders, we are honored to represent every person in this community who is charged with an offense and unable to afford an attorney. However, in our capacity as advocates and defenders of the poor and disenfranchised in this community, we have daily born witness to the brutal realities of institutionalized racism in our criminal legal system. Louisiana did not become the mass incarceration capital of the world overnight. Decades of policing measures targeting poor neighborhoods have given way to significantly higher pretrial detention for men and women of color trapped in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars to be released. Significant delays in the court system result from laws allowing months for prosecutors to make a charging decision and judges to set cases for arraignment. Public defenders are forced to unconstitutionally represent hundreds of clients a year with no resources to effectively investigate every case swiftly and thoroughly. The result? Too many who plead guilty to free themselves from jail rather than wait months or years for their day in court.
In contrast, the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights enacted by the LA legislature gives the officer in question an entire month before he can even be questioned. We cannot as a society allow for the due process afforded to a law enforcement officer to be greater than that which the Constitution guarantees any one of us. For it is times such as this that we must remember our nation was founded on the presumption of innocence and the right to a speedy and fair trial. No Baton Rouge citizen, especially our citizens of color, should be required to languish in jail waiting for the investigation into this officer’s allegedly racist conduct to conclude. As your community’s defender office, we are working to ensure that does not happen.
As public defenders, we know that the decades of unconstitutionally high caseloads and critical underfunding has meant our office must reckon with the role we have played in the denial of immediate justice which so many men, women, and children have suffered. As your community’s public defenders, we make you these promises – we will identify injustice, racism, and bad policies that do not make this community healthy or safe. We will demand that our fellow criminal justice stakeholders recognize the equal role of defense in having a fair and balanced means of effecting justice in Baton Rouge. We will listen to those affected by the practices and policies that have led us to where we are today. We will refuse to be a participant in case processing which does not recognize the dignity of human beings whether they be rich or poor. We will work with our community to empower, support, and defend Black and Brown lives. We will continue, as we have done for the last three decades, to stand for Baton Rouge and all who call this community home.
East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender
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