LAFAYETTE, La. — The Lafayette Consolidated Government is challenging the decision to terminate a Lafayette Police officer who allegedly pulled a handcuffed woman out of his vehicle then tied her up as she lay on the street.
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory terminated Lafayette Police Officer Jeremy Robert in July after seeing body camera video of Robert yanking a woman facedown from his police SUV, causing her to hit her chin on the street.
According to a recording of the September meeting obtained by KATC Investigates, Robert, who has served as a patrol officer from November 2016 to July 2020, was involved in an incident on April 10, where LPD officers were dispatched to a domestic disturbance.
Robert appealed his firing to the Civil Service Board, which overruled Guillory's decision during a Lafayette Fire & Police Civil Service Board meeting on Sept. 16.
"The moment I saw the body camera footage I ordered the immediate termination of Jeremy Robert," Guillory said in a statement released along with the footage on Wednesday by LCG. "I am shocked and appalled that the Civil Service Board voted to reinstate him."
The city filed a petition along with LPD on Sept. 30 to overturn the board's decision. Robert's attorneys argue that firing Robert after he had been disciplined amounts to double jeopardy, while the city's attorneys allege the board's decision was "not made in good faith or for good cause."
Robert responded as backup to a domestic violence disturbance call on April 10. Video shows Robert attempting to calm the woman involved, who became increasingly upset, beat her head against the back of the passenger seat, and kicked. Robert attached two sets of handcuffs and, after Allen grew more upset, pulled the chain of her ankle cuffs with force, causing her to fall facedown on the street. He then allegedly hogtied Allen.
Investigators found Robert violated LPD's use of force and professional conduct orders, among others.
On April 21, LPD Interim Chief Scott Morgan ordered an administrative internal affairs investigation of Robert relative to allegations of excessive force conduct unbecoming of an officer.
On April 22, Morgan issued a notice to Robert that his actions gave rise to a possible violation of excessive force and professional conduct.
On April 24, Robert provided a statement to two officers with LPD Internal Affairs.
On May 11, Morgan was advised that the case was ready to be reviewed.
On May 18, Robert was provided notice of a pre-diciplinary hearing for the case, which he attended on May 22.
On June 15, Robert got a letter from Morgan dated June 9 advising him that after internal review of internal affairs investigation and in consideration of Robert’s verbal explanation, the complaint was sustained.
Morgan advised Robert that he would be receiving a one-day suspension without pay on June 11.
Robert served his one day suspension on June 11.
On June 30, Robert appealed his one-day suspension to the civil service board.
On July 8, the board accepted Robert’s appeal.
On July 10 at 4 p.m., Robert was advised by LPD and the Lafayette Consolidated Government that he could either resign or be terminated effective 6 p.m. on that date.
At 6 p.m., Robert responded that LPD/LCG would have to terminate him.
On July 13, Robert was provided a letter dated July 10 from Morgan advising him that Mayor-President Josh Guillory had reviewed the matter and had determined that his actions warranted termination. On that date, he also filed an appeal to his termination with the board.
On July 16, Robert withdrew his appeal of the one-day suspension that he already served.
During its regular meeting on Sept. 15, the civil service board heard from attorney Michael Corry, representing LCG, and attorney Allyson Preajean, representing Robert to decide if Robert’s termination should be reversed.
Prejean stated during the hearing that there is no authority for an officer to undergo a timely and appropriate internal affairs process, give a compelled statement, have a pre-discipline hearing, have Morgan review entirety of the investigation - which apparently include video of the incident - and have a discipline given by Morgan to Robert of a one day suspension.
Prejean said that Morgan reviewed all of those things and as the appointing authority determined that a one-day suspension without pay was warranted. She said that Morgan notified the officer who then served the one day suspension.
However, 29 days later at 4 p.m. in the afternoon on a Friday, Prejean said that she was told by LCG that she had to call Robert and tell him that he could quit or that LCG was firing him. And he had two hours to make that happen.
Prejean indicated that Robert was on vacation with his family at the time and she had requested that he be given until the following Monday to make the decision, but that request was denied.
Prejean says that the issue is if the mayor-president designates in writing that the chief of police be the appointing authority for all police matters and the chief of police exercises that designation, does the mayor get to come back a month after discipline is served and fire a police officer?
Corry responded that the mayor-president is the appointed authority but can delegate that authority like he did in this situation. He added that this does not mean that the mayor-president did not discharge his role as the appointing authority and has never surrendered that power.
“A delegation of power is not a surrender of power,” said Corry. “The mayor doesn’t surrender his power as the ultimate appointing authority. He can delegate that which he did. Morgan delivered a letter of termination on July 10. It’s a unique situation.”
According to Corry, when Robert did not accept the one day suspension and asked to appeal it, that gave the mayor-president the opportunity to terminate.
“We think it was warranted,” said Corry. “It was done in good faith and it was done in good cause and I think you ought to hear from the mayor.”
Corry said that Guillory was willing to offer his testimony for the decision to terminate Robert, but the board did not hear his testimony.
The board ultimately voted unanimously to reverse Robert’s termination and restore his salary and seniority.
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