Craft comments on ‘culture of corruption’ allegations
In what appears to have been a hastily called press conference, one that comes on the heels of City-Parish President Joey Durel saying he will call for an outside investigation into the city's police department, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft Thursday morning denied officers’ allegations of corruption and intimidation.
In a federal lawsuit filed June 5, nine current and former officers allege a “culture of corruption” they say ranges from Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley to the chief and other higher-ups in the department. That action followed similar allegations in a suit filed in state district court May 22. Plaintiffs in the federal suit are:
Uletom P. Hewitt
Aleeta M. Harding
While the officers claim a host of misdeeds, corruption and intimidation, among the most potentially damning allegations is that the chief choked a one-legged homeless man after the man was arrested at Festival International de Louisiana in 2010; they say the report never indicated what happened at the scene — particularly use of force in the incident:
At or near April 2010, during Lafayette’s Festival International de Louisiane, a disabled, homeless one-legged citizen was arrested and handcuffed.
The individual was located at the LPD’s command bus where the disabled and handcuffed male was sitting in a chair awaiting transport.
While waiting for transport, Defendant Craft, who had apparently consumed at least one (1) recent alcoholic beverage, encountered the arrested and disabled homeless man.
Upon encountering this individual, the arrested individual began telling Defendant Craft that the police were no good as well as cussing at Craft. Craft, upon hearing these insults, jumped upon the disabled man and began to choke him, all while telling the individual he wasn’t going to talk to Craft like that because he was the Chief of Police.
After choking the individual for approximately thirty (30) seconds, Craft’s wife came to the aid of the homeless man, removed Craft from him, placed Craft into a vehicle, and drove him away.
While Craft was being pulled away to his vehicle, a fellow officer, Jimmy Richard, asked Craft if he were going to file a “use of force” report for the incident, since the LPD General Orders mandate the execution and submission of such a form.
Craft laughed while riding away from the scene.
Officer Jimmy Richard, at the time, was the Senior Defense Tactics training officer for the Lafayette Police Department as well as the Acadiana and St. Martin Law Enforcement Academies, well versed in LPD’s requirement that a use of force report must be filed whenever non-lethal force is used against a citizen, particularly when closed-hand techniques and/or neck restraints which can cause serious death or injury are used.
Upon information and belief, Officer Scott Rummel of the LPD was hand-picked by Craft to write the mandatory police report for the arrest of the disabled man.
The report which Rummel wrote and submitted, falsely and completely omitted the entire encounter between Craft and the homeless and disabled individual.
Officers who were present and witnessed this incident included Officer Chris Starling, Monty Potier, Lance LeBlanc, and Scott Rummel.
Lafayette PD spokesman Kyle Soriez directed questions about the alleged incident to LCG's legal department. Read the rest of the lawsuit here.
For the first time since the suit, Craft made a public statement Thursday morning. "Time, patience and the judicial system, not sensational publicity stunts, will prove these allegations false and inaccurate," he said. Read the statement here.
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