Yes, police departments have yearbooks. At least they do in Baton Rouge, 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 above a caption that says “Soul Brothers.”
The Advocate reports that while the police chief at the time called the operation “very successful,” the current Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul issued an apology about the photo.
“Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive,” Paul wrote 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.”
Caruso and the police chief at the time, Greg Phares, have reportedly defended the decision to have white officers dressing in Blackface. They said it was done only with the intent to get drugs off the street, and not to degrade or make fun of black people.
During the 1993 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 people in the community might recognize them.
“Not only do they not know we’re cops,they don’t even know we’re white!” Caruso told The Advocate in 1993. He explained that he achieved his look by wearing a fake gold tooth and a baseball cap from the historically black Southern University.
There were no arrests. They didn’t catch any dealers because they didn’t even attempt to snag any.
They targeted drug users by selling crack to crack addicts. According to the Washington Post, the operation resulted in only 10 busts, including one 50-year-old man who attempted to trade food stamps for crack. But,no one was arrested because the local jail was full. The offenders were simply issued summonses for court appearances.
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.”