A Louisiana police chief issued a formal apology after 25-year-old yearbook photos surfaced of an undercover sting in which white police officers painted themselves black to sell crack to black people. The community was shocked by the revelations, and many asked the same question:
“Wait...Police departments have yearbooks?”
Apparently, in Baton Rouge they do because the Baton Rouge Police Department’s 1993 yearbook features two officers, Crimestoppers coordinator Lt. Don Stone and retired police Captain Frankie Caruso, posing in blackface as they throw up gang signs (or maybe peace signs) above a caption that says “Soul Brothers.”
In a statement, current BRPD Chief Murphy Paul said the pictures were taken when the officers were working in an “undercover capacity during a department approved operation.”
“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive. They were inappropriate then and they are inappropriate now,” said Paul’s statement. “The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs.”
During the 1993 drug operation, Caruso and Stone used makeup to darken their skin because—even though there were black officers on the Baton Rouge force—police officials thought that black cops might be recognizable in the black community. So, of course, the only recourse was to call in the SWAT TEAM (Soldiers Who Are Trained To Eliminate or Appropriate the Melanated).
“Not only do they not know we’re cops—they don’t even know we’re white!” Caruso told The Advocate in 1993, obviously unaware that anyone who believed he was of African descent was clearly using drugs. Caruso explained that he achieved his Michael Rapaport-like look by wearing a fake gold tooth and a baseball cap from the historically black Southern University.
The operation lasted less than an hour, but I’m sure the undercover thugs arrested a major supplier and a few ancillary drug dealers, justifying the offensive actions by taking illegal substances off the streets of a black community that was suffering...
Oh, wait. None of that happened.
There were no arrests. They didn’t catch any dealers because they didn’t even attempt to snag any.
Instead, the police targeted drug users by selling crack to regular low-level crack addicts. According to the Washington Post, Operation Tar Baby (our name, not theirs) netted only 10 busts, including one 50-year-old man who attempted to trade food stamps for crack and another potential kingpin who tried to buy a whopping $20 worth of drugs. Even worse, not a single person was arrested. The local jail was full, so Lieutenant Step and Captain Fetchit simply issued summonses for court appearances.
Apparently, this was a thing in the ’90s.
A few years earlier, Florida law enforcement officials used similar tactics. Instead of hiring black officers, the police department in Naples, Florida, decided it would be easier to just assume their officers would never become governor of Virginia and instead, transform white policemen into Negro dope boys.
In 1990, the New York Times reported:
An undercover drug operation in which white detectives wore blackface makeup resulted in 30 arrests but was branded as racist by black community leaders.
The police halted the practice in the mostly black neighborhood of River Park after news reports brought complaints, but officials defended its use.
‘’Because the sales are made predominantly by blacks,’’ Capt. Kevin Rambosk said, detectives could not ‘’get out there and sell drugs standing on the corner looking the way they were.’’
The department in the southwestern Florida city of about 18,000 residents has one black officer on a force of about 75.
Greg Phares, who served as the Baton Rouge police chief in 1993, told The Advocate that he had “no problem whatsoever with what these officers did,” adding, “For anyone to try to make this some sort of racial issue two decades or more later is just beyond ridiculous.”
While no one mentioned why Officer Jim and Detective Crow needed to pose for pictures to document their brave Negro antics, the black citizens of Baton Rouge surely understand how the Baton Rouge Police Department cured the crack epidemic by dispatching cosplaying cops to the “hood” to hand out tickets to people struggling from addiction.
In related news, the city of Baton Rouge just announced that Gucci will be partnering with the police department to design next year’s line of uniforms.
Make sure you get your yearbook order in early.