By Kiran Chawla | Unfiltered With Kiran | July 19, 2021
Officer Michelle Patterson made headlines in 2018 when she was fired by Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul on May 4.
Patterson, 29 at the time, was arrested in Oct. 2017 by BRPD for injuring public records and malfeasance in office, both felonies. If a BRPD officer is arrested for even one felony, that alone is grounds for termination.
According to her termination paperwork, Patterson investigated a resident at the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority for possible marijuana possession and wrote her a summons. When the manager of the EBRHA asked an officer for Patterson’s report to begin the eviction process of that particular resident, another officer found that her original and supplemental reports were not completed yet. A week later, the same officer went back into their system to find Patterson’s report but the supplemental report was gone and the original report said Patterson “had not found (resident) in possession of any drugs.”
A review of her body camera footage however showed Patterson did find the resident in possession of marijuana, confiscated the drugs and wrote the resident a summons. But the marijuana was never submitted to the evidence room and the summons was not turned into criminal records. A search of their internal system showed Patterson “originally wrote the report correctly, but then deleted the correct information and replaced it with the report indicating that no marijuana was found.”
A criminal investigation began into the false report. A search of Patterson’s police car found the original summons that she issued to the resident as well as evidence from two other unrelated investigations where the evidence was not turned in per protocol.
The termination letter was signed on April 30, 2018 by Chief Paul as well as Officer Patterson on May 4, 2018. Patterson appealed her termination before the Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board on May 15, 2018. However, with Chief Paul rehiring her now, that appeal is dismissed.
Fast forward to July 19, 2021, Officer Patterson is officially rehired and assigned to be back on the streets patrolling. Not only was she rehired by Chief Paul, but also given the title of corporal. Sources tell Unfiltered with Kiran that the reason Patterson was given the title of corporal instead of officer is that she would have attained that title had she not been terminated because she would have been at the department for six years now. Plus, sources said Chief Paul is considering giving her backpay and benefits going back to her termination date in 2018.
Patterson, who is now 32, joined the force in 2015, was fired in 2018 and rehired three years later.
A source close to the investigation spoke to Unfiltered with Kiran on the condition of anonymity,” Chief Paul never wanted to terminate Officer Patterson. He inherited the case just after he became chief, and she had been arrested under the prior administration when Jonny Dunnam was acting chief. He was furious that this officer had even been investigated, much less arrested. He said over and over again, ‘This is a training issue, not a policy violation.’ He honestly believes that to this day that lying in a police report is a training issue, not an ethical one, or at least for certain officers.
“If there is a double standard, that is a cancer that eats away at the morale of officers,” said Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “This is more than just the Chief Murphy Paul doing a favor for an officer. This is something that adversely affects the image of the organization as well as the morale of all of the officers that work within that organization.”
Unfiltered with Kiran dug to find out Patterson remains on the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s current Brady List, which is a notorious list of officers who have certain issues in their background that require disclosure to defense attorneys if those officers are in any way involved with a particular case.
In many cases, such as the one with Patterson, her credibility for the entirety of her career may now be an issue in any case she may become a part of in the future.
“She’s on the Brady list because she was arrested, even though she was not convicted,” said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. “Falsifying a document also gets you on the Brady list. Right now, she is on the list because of the arrest and because of the finding we have on our record of falsifying a document.
“She is not going to be a credible witness and will be of no real use in her ability to go to court and testify in any cases that she may make, which is essentially saying her usefulness as an officer is forever tainted,” said Goyeneche.
The reason she was not convicted per Hillar is that her attorney at the time asked if Patterson could go through a pre-trial diversion.
“Depending on the circumstances and if it’s non-violent charges, we will consider pre-trial diversion,” said Hillar. “We allowed her in, she went through the program and successfully completed it. So as an officer, she was arrested, but not convicted.”
Unfiltered with Kiran did reach out to BRPD requesting an interview or any comment from Chief Paul or anyone in his administration regarding the rehiring of Officer Patterson. We were told the request has been forwarded to the chief’s office.