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July 16, 2019

Baton Rouge police chief apologizes after blackface photo from 1993 operation circulates online

February 12, 2019
Baton Rogue police officers went undercover in blackface for a 1993 operation. (Pool / Getty Images)

Two white Baton Rouge police officers posed in blackface before a 1993 undercover operation, and now the mayor and police chief are dealing with the backlash.

The two officers, Crimestoppers coordinator Lt. Don Stone and now-retired police Capt. Frankie Caruso, appeared in dark makeup and costume for a disguise for a narcotics operation.

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A photo of the two appeared in the Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook that year, under the caption “Soul Brothers,” but was brought back to the surface over the weekend online.

In the shadow of a blackface scandal that has shaken the Virginia governor’s office, Police Chief Murphy Paul stepped in almost immediately.

“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive,” he said in a statement. “They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today. The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs.”

Paul also said that current department policy bans the use of blackface “under any circumstances,” both on- and off-duty.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, a black woman and the first woman elected to lead Baton Rouge, also spoke out against the photos.

“While this may have been department-approved 25 years ago, that does not make it right,” she said in a statement.

“Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation.”

According to a Baton Rouge Advocate story from the 1993 operation, sever police officers went undercover. Stone and Caruso disguised themselves as black men because the two black narcotics officers were too easily recognizable.

Caruso also defended the decision by comparing it to other undercover costumes, including dressing up as a gay man, a biker and a prostitute, according to the Advocate.

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