Baton Rouge Police Department Yearbook


white cops wore blackface to sell fake drugs to blacks

February 13, 2019
2.5K Picks

In 1993, the Baton Rouge Police Department’s Narcotics Division green-lit two of its investigators painting themselves in Blackface as a part of an undercover operation to sell fake cocaine to people in predominantly Black neighborhoods. The jokes write themselves. HuffPost reported on the operation after local publication Rouge Collection released the police departments yearbook picture showing Don Stone and Frankie Caruso posing side-by-side in a picture with the caption “Soul Brothers.” This is the same police department responsible for the death of Alton Sterling.

According to The Advocate, Don Stone is still working for the department as a Lieutenant and Frankie Caruso retired a captain. The two use “chopped up welder’s chalk” as the fake cocaine and would go into Black neighborhoods and trick people into buying the fake coke. The operation led to 10 arrests, with one being a 50-year-old man who wanted to pay with food stamps.

In a perfect world (if there ever was one), a manufactured drug war wouldn’t be used to target and incarcerate Black people to the point that a 50-year-old man was willing to forego food for drugs. In this world, we are seeing a legacy of racial callousness that would contribute to anti-Black policing that would eventually take Sterling’s life.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul confirmed the investigation as a “department-approved operation” and apologized for the photograph but not the policy to entrap Black people. “Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive. They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today,” Paul said. “The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs.”

Weston Broome, a Black woman and the Mayor of Baton Rouge, said in the statement, “while this may have been department-approved 25 years ago, that does not make it right.” She went on to say “Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation.” Of course, it would take a Black elected official to point out that Blackface was harmful decades ago. When police consistently get away with brutalizing and killing Black people, it’s hard to care what may be considered “department-approved” today, let alone 25 years ago.

Baton Rouge Police Department would justify painting their officers in Blackface instead of hiring more Black officers and although we are firmly on the side of abolishing the police, the actions of the department expose its toxicity clearly. “Baton Rouge has been under a consent decree since 1980 for not having enough Black officers,” Gary Chambers, the co-publisher of the Baton Rouge Collection told HuffPost. “This shows how bad the department had been.” There were only two Black narcotic officers working in Baton Rouge at the time.

This racist version of 21 Jump Street is the height of ridiculousness but we already know how far police officers are willing to go to put Black people behind bars. It’s chilling being reminded just how far.