Should Sgt. William White still be with the Lafayette PD?

by Patrick Flanagan

On two occasions, the longtime Lafayette Police sergeant was caught using racially charged language aimed at his fellow black officers and the public.

Lafayette Police Sgt. William White

In recent months we asked Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft to rate the department’s relationship with the minority community. Here’s Craft’s response:

I would rate our relationship with the minority communities on a scale from 1 to 5 as a 3. Police departments on occasion experience mistrust in minority communities. It is usually due to lack of communication or misunderstanding of police protocol or procedures. In November, LPD began forming a Community Relations Committee. Officers, citizens, and community leaders will serve on the committee. The purpose is to increase the level of trust and communications within minority communities. The committee will gather “raw data” from the minority community (thru Town Hall meetings) to gauge the level of an area’s trust and communication with its police. Once that data is obtained, efforts will be made to address any issues and/or problems noted. To start, I have met with the local and state leaders of the NAACP and the Department of Justice Community Relations Division. Both groups have offered helpful insight as to how to staff the committee and how to gather the data. Our next step is to begin soliciting persons from the community to serve.

Since that response was issued, an audio recording surfaced in which Lafayette Police Sgt. William White was heard using racially charged words to describe fellow African American officers — particularly referencing now retired Maj. Jackie Alfred — saying, “I’m tired of these dumb fucking niggers around here.”

Andres Landor, who recently retired from the Lafayette Police Department after 21 years

In a second instance during a cell phone conversation with a black officer, White — who's been with the department just shy of 20 years — is again alleged to have used racist language in frustration with a passing motorist. According to the black officer, White, while still on the phone with the officer, was heard shouting, “Watch where you are going you stupid fuckin’ niggers.” Realizing who was on the other end of the call, White attempts an apology as the black officer hangs up the line.

These instances, after being brought to the attention of the Lafayette City-Parish Council in February by a recently retired veteran of the department, Andres Landor, prompted an Internal Affairs investigation into White’s actions.

That investigation has since come to a conclusion, and with both allegations confirmed, it raises a serious question: Should White remain on the force?

Here’s Chief Craft’s response to the complaint filed by Landor regarding White’s comments:

After careful review of all the information gathered during the investigation, I find that your complaint is sustained. That is, the acts complained of did occur as stated and did involve the employee named. It was determined that Officer White’s conduct did violate general orders of the Lafayette Police Department that deal with professional conduct.

Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken in this matter. It is the policy of Lafayette Consolidated Government not to disclose the level of action taken as this is considered a personnel issue.

What is an appropriate punishment for an officer using racially charged language while in the line of duty? A 30-day suspension? Fifteen days? Or at a time when the relationship between police and minorities has come under greater scrutiny than ever before — Baltimore and Ferguson just two of many examples — should this be grounds for termination?

In a letter submitted to the Lafayette Civil Service Board calling for an investigation into White’s repeated use of the “N-word,” Landor makes the argument for termination. From Landor's letter:

This is clear evidence that the use of this hateful word is used so often by Officer White that he subconsciously refers to African Americans by this term when angry, aggravated or even simply just his way of referring to African Americans on a daily basis.

I recently received a disposition letter, authored by current Lafayette City Police Chief James P. Craft advising that the investigation was completed and appropriate [discipline] was rendered against Sgt. White. Chief Craft’s definition of appropriate discipline falls short of the conduct exemplified by Sgt. White.

[White’s] conduct meets or exceeds the threshold that warrants anything short of termination.

Landor’s appeal to the Civil Service Board is set for a hearing next week.

We’ll keep you posted.