La. State Police report says cadets found 2019 training drill 'torture' and 'hazing'

The agency had previously said cadets in defensive tactics training at the agency's 99th academy had been subject to exercises beyond "normal parameters"


Jacqueline Derobertis
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

BATON ROUGE, La. — An internal affairs investigation of a violent Louisiana State Police Training Academy session reveals cadets were forced by a since-demoted instructor to hit each other with devices that felt like concrete during an unscheduled exercise some characterized as "torture," "punishment" and "hazing."

The agency had previously said cadets in defensive tactics training at the agency's 99th academy, conducted in October 2019, had been subject to exercises beyond "normal parameters." State Police also had transferred three troopers out of the training division afterward, but did not offer details shortly after the training concluded.

A more-thorough investigative report, obtained by The Advocate through an open records request, concluded Lt. Lenias Marie both coordinated and participated in a "yellow pad" drill that resulted in multiple cadets suffering serious injuries that required medical attention. Marie was later demoted to sergeant.

The investigation and disciplinary action came under the tenure of Col. Kevin Reeves, who resigned last year after several misconduct allegations against the agency. Current Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis said he was confident in the agency's training staff and curriculum.

"We continue to review our training protocols and policies and develop best practices so that we can provide the best training environment possible," Davis said.

State Police interviewed 52 cadets and 28 agency officials, including Marie. The final report describes how discipline handed down for various infractions in the days before the drill created a mix of sleep-deprived cadets and frustrated instructors as they entered a grueling week of physical training.

Fire watch

The problems began when instructors discovered unsecured training guns in a dorm room the Friday before physical training was scheduled to start.

As punishment, instructors ordered a military-style "fire watch" drill that Monday in which two cadets had to patrol the building every hour while other members of the class slept. One day later, duty officers found "snacks, protein powders, and a cell phone" — which are considered contraband — along with alleged examination material on the forbidden cell phone.

As a "corrective measure," cadets were ordered to participate in physical exercises for two hours. That night, cadets were again instructed to keep the fire watch — but this time with a full platoon rotating out each hour instead of just two cadets per hour, leaving more trainees with little to no sleep.

By Wednesday of that week, the sleep-deprived cadets were scheduled for block instruction as part of its defensive tactic training. The report says one instructor noticed how listless and exhausted the cadets seemed at this point.

Nevertheless, the report said, Marie seemed fixated on using different pads for some kind of additional blocking instruction later in the day, even though instructors said training with the original pads was sufficient.

These separate pads he insisted on using were described in the report as yellow and resembling "concrete," "a brick," "a baseball," or "a metal rod" when touched. One executive officer at the academy said he believed the pads were in use as far back as 1995 and may have been part of riot training, though investigators could not determine when the pads had been purchased.

Although other instructors seemed hesitant to use the outdated equipment, Marie allegedly questioned the manhood of one of his colleagues "if you're not gonna do that drill again with the yellow pads," the report says.

He also noted that, "I was bruised in my Academy, now it's their turn."

Yellow pad drill

Marie ordered cadets to participate in an unscheduled drill with the older pads that lasted for about half an hour, according to investigators.

Cadets were meant to wear the pads on their forearms to shield themselves from strikes; instead, they were ordered to swing the pads at each other.

During the drill, one sergeant saw Marie "swinging the pad and striking cadets at close to 100% intensity," even though students had been told to strike with only 50% intensity. One trooper said Marie told instructors that if cadets were not hitting each other hard enough, the instructors should step in and strike the cadet's partner with high intensity.

Marie, who oversaw the drill despite his instructional certification having lapsed, allegedly struck one cadet who felt "as if he was knocked unconscious" after falling to one knee. When the cadet stood up, Marie hit him again in the back of his neck, knocking him down.

Several of those interviewed said the drill seemed to be punishment, perhaps after the alleged cheating. One person said it felt as though Marie had "hijacked the training."

The report said most cadets suffered bruising on their arms and shoulders, and that 14 sought medical attention. The cadet who says Marie struck him was diagnosed with "post-concussion symptoms."

Investigators later discovered the pads used in the drill were "stained with blood and appeared to be badly deteriorated."

Discipline

Marie complained to investigators he was "being painted as a villain somehow, or I was angry," but insisted he was not retaliating against the cadets for suspected cheating. Asked why those present reported that he struck the cadets with 100% intensity, he said, "Maybe there's a cheating scandal going on right now and they're all scared."

The investigation ultimately concluded Marie "allowed the drill to continue much longer than needed for training purposes." Several other instructors, including former Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, said that the drill seemed to have lost its training value. Another instructor described the drill as "foolish" and "archaic," saying that it made him feel ill to watch.

Marie was found to have violated the departmental policy of "conduct unbecoming of an officer" and "potentially jeopardized the ... cadets', as well as the public's, respect for State Police and diminished the confidence in the Office of State Police."

A separate inquiry determined that the information on the cell phone was study material from previous academies that the cadets used as a study guide.

NEXT: Unnecessary roughness: Do we need to tame police academy training?

(c)2021 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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