Louisiana State Police Corruption Update

State Police Commission delays action on Las Vegas ‘side trip’ discipline; troopers say they’ve been scapegoated

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

Three Louisiana State Police troopers disciplined last year for taking a lavish “side trip” to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon while driving to a law enforcement conference in California offered their first public remarks on the controversy during their appeal Monday before the State Police Commission.

At turns resentful and conciliatory, they said they had been scapegoated for a scandal that embarrassed the State Police and prompted the retirement last year of Mike Edmonson, the agency’s longest-serving superintendent.

The State Police Commission, after a full day of testimony Monday, deferred action on the appeal.

The commission, which acts as a civil service board for the State Police, emerged from executive session without a decision on whether to uphold, amend or overturn the demotion and the pay reduction that two of the troopers received after their taxpayer-funded excursion became public. A third trooper on the trip received a letter of reprimand but contends even that discipline was unfair.

The inaction means a decision will not be announced until next month at the earliest, when the commissioners are scheduled to meet in Monroe to hear another appeal.

The troopers insisted Edmonson not only signed off on the side trip but encouraged the troopers to take a scenic route to the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference. Edmonson initially said he had not approved the trip, but text messages and phone records show he stayed in touch with the group as they drove across the country in a State Police vehicle that Edmonson wanted to have at his disposal at the San Diego conference.

The circuitous journey took the troopers hundreds of miles out of their way and included an overnight stay at a Las Vegas casino resort and a visit to the Hoover Dam.

The side trip prompted two state investigations, including a legislative audit that found Edmonson abused his power and took repeated handouts during his years at the helm of State Police.

The state Legislative Auditor’s Office found the “side trip” resulted in at least $13,000 in unnecessary taxpayer expenditures.

One commissioner, Brian Crawford, the chief administrative officer of Shreveport, resembled a prosecutor at times during the four-day hearing, referring to Edmonson’s testimony as “contradictory” and grilling the troopers on their decisions.

“I blame Col. Edmonson for most of this mess,” Crawford said. “He didn’t do you any favors. But you guys have some individual responsibility.”

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