Editor’s Note: We have removed the name of the Lafayette Police Department employee who accused interim Lafayette Police Chief Wayne Griffin of sexual harassment. Our decision to publish the name was insensitive and conflicts with our commitment to minimize harm in our reporting. We apologize to the person identified and commit to developing a more rigorous standard for these decisions.
UPDATE: Shortly after this story was published, LCG confirmed that a sexual harassment complaint was filed Thursday afternoon against interim Chief Wayne Griffin, and he has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted. Maj. Monte Potier is commanding the department until further notice. “All parties at issue are to not destroy or hide any material or evidence associated with this alleged matter and shall comply with this investigation to the fullest extent of the law and in full compliance with the law,” the release states.
The suspect was holding a knife in each hand. He’d been knocking items off of shelves in the Moss Street Walgreens, disrupting business and causing employees and customers to panic. Employees were hiding, as customers scrambled for the emergency exit doors. When police arrived, the suspect was still holding the knives and despite verbal commands to drop them, he refused.
This scene was playing out early one September afternoon, about a year after the fatal shooting of another Black man, Trayford Pellerin, by Lafayette Police as he tried to enter a convenience store. But this time, police were equipped with a Lewis Machine 40mm launcher, and a supervisor deployed two rounds, striking the suspect at a safe distance. The man dropped the knives and was taken into custody. Outside of minor bruises on the suspect, who was arrested for terrorizing, no one was injured.
Thomas Glover Sr., hired nine months earlier as police chief, viewed the incident as an opportunity to show Lafayette residents how law enforcement’s approach was changing, that the department’s investment in 120 of these less lethal weapons was already reducing injuries to suspects and officers. A press release was drafted by the department.
“The Lafayette Police Department will continue to do everything we can to preserve the sanctity of life,” read one of the final lines of the release.
In Glover’s mind, this was the perfect example of a department working to rebuild trust in a divided community and an opportunity to show that the city’s major investment in enhanced training was working.
But the press release describing what happened that September afternoon would not be published. The Guillory administration suppressed it after the draft was circulated for approval (while officers were cleared of wrongdoing, LCG still faces a civil suit filed by the Pellerin family).
It wasn’t the first time the administration had muzzled Glover’s efforts to inform the public. Since his sudden ouster, he’s complained publicly that the administration kept his work under wraps.
His supporters, particularly on Lafayette’s Northside, say his dismissal threatens to reverse gains he made in repairing the relationship between the police department and the Black community. The sustained lack of transparency about the termination, Glover and his sympathizers say, fits a pattern.
Two months before the Walgreens episode, Glover had organized a press conference of local and federal officials, including the U.S. attorney’s office and U.S. marshal’s office, FBI and Louisiana State Police, to discuss their collaborative crime-fighting efforts. Three days before it was to take place, he was ordered to cancel it.
“I was never given any reason,” Glover says.
And there was another time when he wanted to publicize the locations the department was installing 48 license plate readers in the 70501 zip code, a high-crime area. The administration didn’t want the public to know where the cameras would be, Glover says, despite studies showing their effectiveness as a deterrent. “People who are trained in law enforcement know there are two purposes to a camera, and one of them is to deter or prevent,” he says.
“They kept me from getting anything put in the media, no matter what I was doing,” Glover says. “I wanted to do a comprehensive youth employment plan for the summer,” he continues, saying he had a partner, Acadiana Workforce Solutions, with millions of dollars to put the project in motion. “It was struck down.”
Glover notes that other successes, like the major reduction in property crimes, never made their way to the media.
The administration did not respond to a request for comment.
Glover says he was initially perplexed that much of his messaging was being quashed because he was doing what Mayor-President Josh Guillory had made clear he wanted during the hiring process late last year. “He wanted the entire department torn down and rebuilt. He wanted bad officers out, fired, terminated,” recalls Glover, Lafayette’s first Black police chief.
“He wanted to overhaul the use of force. He wanted to spend hundreds of thousands on training, which I did. He just said totally clean it up,” the former chief says. “He felt that there were cliques there, he felt that there were officers, in his terms, sitting on their asses at desks. High-ranking officers drinking coffee.”
Glover’s expectations were to some extent supported by the administration’s actions. Months before his arrival, the Guillory admin broadcast efforts to embrace use of force changes, adopting elements of the police reform movement’s 8 Can’t Wait campaign. LPD didn’t make its use of force policies until 2020, releasing that info after some cajoling by a working committee of three women coordinated by Guillory aide and LCG Chief of Minority Affairs Carlos Harvin.
At that time, Guillory committed $1 million in coronavirus relief funds to pay for training in new techniques. Among the training units was “emotional survival” for law enforcement instruction conducted by a behavioral scientist, the administration told The Current in May.
Following his marching orders from the mayor, Glover says he immediately removed 10 officers from the headquarters building and “put them back in uniform on the street.” He also ordered everyone, including captains, to get out at least once a day into their precincts. “I started requiring officers to make community contacts.”
As he tries to put his finger on what went wrong, why he was unceremoniously dismissed by Guillory and his CAO earlier this month without explanation, Glover now sees a political calculation about higher office in every decision the mayor made — with much of his advice coming from his political consultant, Joe Castille. “They were always concerned about how the mayor would look,” Glover says of Castille, CAO Cydra Wingerter and spokesman Jamie Angelle. “So much was counter to law enforcement.”
Griffin, who also applied for the chief’s position last year, was named interim chief the day Glover’s dismissal was announced. Controversy ignited almost immediately. Griffin declined to respond to allegations from a community activist that he is facing a sexual harassment complaint. The administration did not immediately respond to The Current’s request for comment about whether a complaint was filed and whether action is being taken to address it.
Despite those setbacks in getting his initiatives out to a broader audience, Glover says the mayor had been consistently reassuring him that he was doing a good job. Though he met with Guillory in person only a handful of times, Glover says, they spoke regularly on the phone and via text (a public records request for those text messages is pending). “The mayor has never, ever told me that I was on my way out,” he says.
Glover insists he was never informed about how his success would be evaluated. “They never ever gave me goals or objectives, no performance measures.”
A week before he was fired, Glover addressed residents at a Law Enforcement Community Relations Committee meeting, telling them what the department was doing to tamp down gun and youth violence. While Glover sought to reinvigorate the community relations group, the committee never seemed to regain the traction it had under former Deputy Chief Reggie Thomas, who is now city marshal.
Like communities across the country, Lafayette experienced a substantial increase in gun violence last year, and this year is on a similar track; the murder rate is also up from last year. “This department, under my leadership, has worked its rear end off trying to make the city of Lafayette safe,” Glover told the group, before laying out in detail more of his plans. At the meeting, Glover acknowledged a recent surge in violent crime, but said most of it had happened in May and June and reassured the audience he was doing everything he could to quell it.
He didn’t look or sound like a chief who was about to be sent to the exit door.
Glover had long been running into resistance from rank-and-file officers but says he expected that to happen when he started making changes. He and the police union were at odds from the outset, with complaints ranging from Glover’s failure to adequately investigate misconduct allegations against a Black police captain (Glover has defended his handling of the matter) while white officers were being investigated for misconduct to what union members viewed as more aggressive disciplinary actions against white officers.
More recently officers lamented the department’s strategy for pouring too many resources into arresting panhandlers, a crackdown Glover embraced at the administration’s direction, and declining patrols of Lafayette’s streets, a disorganized structure they said was leaving officers handling high-crime precincts shorthanded and putting all of the city at risk. Officers also adamantly opposed Glover’s proposal to move from 12-hour shifts to 10-hour shifts, arguing the added days required to accommodate it would eat into their time off and could adversely affect the schedules for families sharing custody of children.
But that change and several other initiatives Glover planned to push forward were supported by a review of the department’s operations authored by LCG consultant KPMG, which found that moving to 10-hour or eight-hour shifts could save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Glover’s suggestion that internal affairs be run by a civilian board is supported by the KPMG study, a draft copy of which was obtained by The Current, as is the caseworker program he discussed as far back as May and planned to formally propose before the end of the year. The KPMG report is purely a financial analysis.
Some of Glover’s biggest supporters saw a chief who was rebuilding the community’s trust in a department still reeling from the police shooting of Pellerin last summer. And many fear what they viewed as progress will fall by the wayside, as Griffin has already moved to undo much of what Glover put in place, including the reassignment of three Black police officers who held prominent positions.
A request to interview interim Chief Wayne Griffin about his transition and which of Glover’s changes he would keep was declined. “I think it is only fair to give him the opportunity to get settled in, assess the department, and work out what his plans are before having a bunch of questions thrown his way,” Jamie Angelle wrote in an emailed response last week. “Certainly you can understand that.”
Griffin appeared with the mayor-president on his weekly KPEL radio spot a few days later.
During his interview process for the job last year, Griffin presented detailed plans for how he would run the department, according to Councilwoman Liz Hebert, who served on the selection committee.
Even Glover’s detractors will attest to the time he put into the job, as he was known to work late into the night and kept a very busy schedule. “To his credit, that guy is up at all times of the day,” one officer says. “Saw him in his office at 11:53 p.m. the other night.”
That hard work was paying off, his supporters say. They now worry it will all be undone.
“Being visible in the community was key. He was taking on his personal time to visit major players in the community, and that’s both the Black community and the white community,” says Bishop Alton Gatlin of Gethsemane Church on Pinhook Road. “He was guilty of showing up at churches, public events, and any time you asked him to do a presentation or to speak concerning the police department, he was doing that. I think one of the most important things he was doing was he got people out of the station and out of their patrol cars and made them become more observant in their neighborhoods, know the people in their neighborhoods, talk to the people and find out what the issues were.”
Gatlin, who has been meeting with the former chief, believes some healing was taking place. He says Glover was able to “bridge the gap” after Pellerin’s death, which rocked the community. The obvious change was in how officers approached the use of deadly force. Fearing those changes are now in doubt, Gatlin echoes the calls to explain the dismissal.
“I want to give the mayor the benefit of the doubt of being a fair, just man that has common decency,” he says. “I pray that he will come forth… tell the truth about what happened that this man had to go. There is nothing professional about what we’re doing now. We need to be very careful about where we are going now.”