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Police union president faces possible discipline in Alton Sterling shooting

The union president said Chief Murphy Paul issued a letter accusing him of violating protocol that requires LEOs involved in a shooting to be separated from each other

By Jim Mustian
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

BATON ROUGE, La. — The head of the Baton Rouge police union has been placed under internal investigation and faces possible discipline for his actions the night of the 2016 Alton Sterling shooting.

The union president, Sgt. C. Bryan Taylor, said Police Chief Murphy Paul issued a “predisciplinary letter” last week accusing Taylor of violating department protocol that requires officers involved in a shooting to be separated from each other. That requirement is intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation and to prevent officers from colluding on a version of events before they have been interviewed by the department.

The investigation is the latest sign of strife between the police union and Paul. Taylor, who has consistently butted heads with the new chief, is accused of failing to “carry out orders” after responding to the Sterling scene.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Taylor described the internal inquiry as political payback for the police union’s criticism of Paul after the chief fired Blane Salamoni, the officer who fatally shot Sterling outside the Triple S Food Mart. Paul also suspended Howie Lake II, the second officer involved in the deadly encounter with Sterling.

Taylor said he had been off duty and responded to the scene of the shooting only as a union representative. He said there were a number of other supervisors on scene tasked with separating Salamoni and Lake.

“Sometimes, when you stand up for what’s right, and what you were elected to do, there’s retribution,” Taylor said, adding he intends to fight the allegation when he appears before the chief at a predisciplinary hearing in July. “I clearly was not the supervisor on scene that night. Obviously, this is an attack on me, for one reason or another.

“Out of all the supervisors on scene that night, I’m the one being investigated. At no time did I control that scene.”

Paul declined to discuss the matter Tuesday, referring The Advocate to his media relations division. A Police Department spokesman, Sgt. L’Jean McKneely Jr., said the chief would have no comment on the “ongoing” investigation.

The development came just days after Taylor was transferred from his role as commander of the department’s intelligence division to patrol — a significant demotion that Taylor said has not been explained to him.

McKneely said more than a dozen officers were transferred the same day, adding Taylor was not singled out by the chief in being reassigned. “It was the for the betterment of the department,” McKneely said.

The police union has been sharply critical of Paul’s decision to fire Salamoni, which came after state Attorney General Jeff Landry this year announced that neither officer in Sterling’s death would face criminal charges. The union issued a statement in support of both Salamoni and Lake, saying “our police officers are faced with many complicated and highly intense situations.”

Both Salamoni and Lake have appealed their discipline.

It’s not clear what prompted the investigation of Taylor, and the Police Department has not released a copy of the letter outlining the allegations against him.

“I don’t understand the investigation whatsoever,” Taylor said. “I am under a microscope.”

Louis Reine, president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, noted that Baton Rouge police officers involved in shootings are allowed union representation under the city’s collective bargaining agreement.

“I’m hopeful that this investigation has nothing to do with (Taylor’s) official position as a union leader representing his membership,” Reine said.

The inquiry could deepen the divisions between Paul and the police union, which has been skeptical of several decisions the chief has made since taking office earlier this year. Tensions have risen since Paul fired Salamoni, a move that also drew criticism from the International Union of Police Associations.

That organization’s president, Sam Cabral, released a statement last month criticizing Paul’s boss, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, for calling for Salamoni’s termination before the criminal probe into the fatal shooting was even complete.

Asked Tuesday whether Paul has the support of rank-and-file officers, Taylor said, “Overall, I would say no.” But he dismissed rumors circulating within the department about planned “sick-outs,” in which officers had discussed calling in sick en masse to protest Salamoni’s firing.

“The men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department, especially union members, will not punish the community for the actions of politicians,” Taylor said.

©2018 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.