Judge Jessie LeBlanc upheld the December 2, 2016 firing of Officer Moses Black by Gonzales Chief of Police Sherman Jackson last week. With Black’s civil rights lawsuit pending in Louisiana’s Middle District (Federal) Court, his quest for reinstatement to Gonzales Police Department has come to an end.
“I did what I thought was right based upon two decades of experience in law enforcement,” a dejected Moses Black said in response to the judgment. “I believe now, as I’ve always believed, that my firing was in retaliation for my refusal to remain silent about serious problems in the department.”
Black asserts that the reason given for his termination, his inquiry into excessive traffic tickets being issued pursuant to a grant program, was merely a pretext and that he was fired because he filed a report accusing fellow officers of brutality. He pushed for an investigation of the incident in which a DWI suspect, already handcuffed and lying on the PD floor, was kicked by one officer as three others “contained” him.
But those allegations were barred from consideration in Black’s appeal of the city’s Civil Service Board’s June 19, 2018 decision to uphold Black’s firing. Prior to landing in Judge LeBlanc’s Division D courtroom it was Judge Jason Verdigets who made the evidentiary ruling which diminished any chance Black may have had for reinstatement.
The official reason provided for the firing was that Officer Moses Black engaged in an investigation of a year-old traffic citation issued by a fellow officer as part of a grant program. What is it with GPD and grant programs?
In Reasons for Judgment the Court wrote that Black suspected “impropriety” and sought “proof against this fellow officer that he had done something wrong.” Black acknowledged that he had acted of his own volition.
Chief Sherman Jackson testified that “to allow such actions to occur within the department would lead to ‘total chaos…Chaos because it could lead to officers that could possibly have a grudge on you, maybe don’t like you, and purposely question your integrity and question the officer and the department.'”
LeBlanc cited five Standard Operating Procedures, most notably:
- Officers “shall not knowingly interfere with the investigation, assigned task, or duty assigned to another” officer;
- Officers “shall not undertake any investigation or other police action not part of the officer’s regular police duties without obtaining permission from a superior officer unless the situation requires immediate police action.”
Moses Black was not the only Gonzales Police Officer who looked into the ticket-writing practices of fellow officers, he was the only one fired for doing so.
Ultimately, the Court could “not say that the Board’s decision was not made in good faith and for cause.”