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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Louisiana Police Wore Blackface in the 90’s to Lure, Arrest Black People Buying Drugs

A yearbook picture of Don Stone and Frankie Caruso wearing blackface

A yearbook picture of Don Stone and Frankie Caruso wearing blackface

Baton Rouge, LA — It has been confirmed that two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana wore blackface in 1993 in an attempt to convince people in a Black neighborhood to buy drugs from them! Many were disappointed with the “inappropriate” operation that sparked more controversies about the painful history of blackface in the U.S.

A picture of two Baton Rouge police officers from their department yearbook have recently gone public with local media outlet Rouge Collection‘s report. The two, identified as Lt. Don Stone and now-retired Capt. Frankie Caruso, had their skin painted black and were wearing flannels, hoodies, and sunglasses in the picture which was captioned “Soul brothers.”

Stone and Caruso were two of the seven undercover police officers on the narcotics operation where they used “chopped-up welder’s chalk” as fake crack cocaine and went into “drug ‘hot spots’,” which were predominantly black neighborhoods, to fool people into buying drugs, as stated in a 1993 article in The Advocate.

At that time, there were reportedly only Black narcotics officers in the police department. They are said to be well-known in the targeted community which would make them easily recognizable. That’s why the department decided the two White officers had to dress up to appear Black, instead of hiring and promoting more Black officers.

The operation resulted in the arrest of 10 people who tried to buy fake drugs from the undercover cops in blackface. Stone said at that time, “Not only do they not know we’re cops — they don’t even know we’re white!”

Caruso and the police chief at the time, Greg Phares, have since defended the operation and claimed that it was not intended to degrade or discriminate Black people.

“You got to dress the part. It wasn’t done offensively,” Caruso said in a recent interview with The Advocate.

Both of them don’t even describe the makeup as blackface.

“I have no problem whatsoever with that these officers did,” said Phares, who is now a chief deputy at the East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office. “For anyone to try to make this some sort of racial issue two decades or more later is just beyond ridiculous.”

On Monday, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul confirmed that the operation was approved by the department at that time but he condemned the practice and apologized for it.

“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.”

Paul noted that while there are current policies that do not approve operations where cops have to wear blackface, the department “cannot apply existing policies to conduct that happened before the policies were in place.”

Moreover, Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, a Black woman, denounced the operation and said, “While this may have been department-approved 25 years ago, that does not make it right. Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation.”
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