Investigation: No quota system
Published 12:15 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Attorney: Not satisfied with flawed Narcotics Bureau review
LAPLACE — Sheriff Mike Tregre said Louisiana State Police and an independent investigation cleared the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office of the charge the department operated a quota system within its Narcotics Bureau.
The controversy began to make headlines in December when news of a 2012 memo came to light, indicating the memo was distributed within the St. John the Baptist Parish Narcotics Bureau in violation of state law banning arrest quotas of local law enforcement agencies.
Tregre was emphatic in December, saying he only learned of the memo through newspaper reports, adding it was on official letterhead and crafted by Maj. Walter Chappel without his knowledge.
The memo dated Oct. 12, 2012, has been entered into a St. John criminal proceeding by an attorney representing the Indigent Defenders Office. Tregre said the attorney accused the St. John Sheriff’s Office of creating a policy that mandated an illegal quota system.
Tregre met with St. John District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut and with investigators from Louisiana State Police to request an investigation into the allegations.
“The Louisiana State Police agreed to conduct an inquiry; however, after a short time of looking into the matter, the Louisiana State Police advised Sheriff Tregre that the memo was not a criminal matter,” a release from the Sheriff’s Office said. “Rather, Louisiana State Police decided the matter was administrative in nature and, therefore, no criminal investigation was warranted.”
Tregre said he hired outside agency JS Investigations of Slidell to conduct an independent administrative inquiry into the matter. Two investigators came in to review the memo’s circumstances and determine if it created a quota system.
“After conducting an extensive review of policies and procedures and personnel interviews, the administrative investigators confirmed that no quota system was created or existed as a result of the October 12, 2012, memo,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The complete findings of the administrative inquiry were provided to the St. John District Attorney’s Office.
Tregre told L’OBSERVATEUR Monday the investigation cost $2,324, adding it lasted from Jan. 27 to Feb. 25.
Lt. Tanner Mangano is the current commander of the Narcotics Bureau.
“He is a good fit for the position,” Tregre said. “Everything is working out fine.”
Chappel is still with the Sheriff’s Office but with a different division, and “doing a very good job,” Tregre said.
According to Tregre, JS Investigations has strong credentials, and zero ties to the Sheriff’s office, community or local officers.
Nghana Lewis Gauff, a LaPlace attorney who’s firm offers criminal and civil rights defense, among other services, prepared discovery requests on behalf of her clients who she said might have had their Constitutional rights impacted by the Narcotics Bureau memo.
Gauff said it was unnecessary to contact State Police because that agency does not have jurisdiction.
“The Constitution is a federal set of previsions, not state,” she said.
“Furthermore, State Police investigate crime, not, per say, civil rights violations.
“If the Sheriff wants to give the illusion to the public that he has exercised due diligence, that’s fine. I feel that it is incumbent upon the public to actually understand what entities have authority to conduct investigations of whether or not there have been violations. I’m really not impressed with the measures the Sheriff has taken, because I don’t feel like the proper authorities were consulted.”
Gauff said a truly independent agency is one that is not paid or retained to undertake investigation by one of the parties involved.
“My cursory review of the report generated by the independent agency suggests to me that the Sheriff is entirely comfortable throwing Walter Chappel under the bus and sustaining in his employment persons who allegedly engaged in conduct that would get the average person swiftly fired; for example, authoring a memo that on its face creates a quota system, allegedly without the Sheriff’s knowledge, and creating racial division among the ranks.”
District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut said her office was made aware of the memo during a court hearing in December.
“After consulting with the regional commanders of the Louisiana State Police and members of the Criminal Investigation Division on Jan. 21, 2016, I sent a formal letter to the St. John Sheriff’s Office, I believe Jan. 25, requesting a formal investigation into the Goals and Objectives memo,” Dinvaut said.
According to Dinvaut, there is a state statue prohibiting quotas.
She said Louisiana State Police determined it was not a criminal violation of state law.
“Prosecution has been delayed as a result of the motion the defense attorneys filed with regards to this memo,” she said.
“I’m not at liberty to speak on the impact on the prosecution because it’s an ongoing prosecution. There are cases that are just out there pending. That’s just something that my office will deal with. But because they are pending, I can’t talk about them.
“The District Attorney’s office has not been provided with any document, actions or evidence that supports a finding that a qualified quota system existed as a result of this memo. Like I always say, I’m in the business of evidence.”
According to the 2012 memo “each Narcotics Officer is responsible for producing a minimum of six felony Narcotics arrests per month (excluding drug paraphernalia), each Narcotics Officer is responsible for producing a minimum of two search warrants per month and each Narcotics Officer is responsible for documenting a minimum of two new informants per month.”
The only exception excluding an officer from the requirements is if an officer was “scheduled to work in an undercover capacity in another jurisdiction.”
— Staff writers Raquel Derganz Baker and Stephen Hemelt contributed to this report.