Baton Rouge, LA – The Baton Rouge civil service board voted unanimously on Tuesday to reinstate a Baton Rouge police officer who was fired after he criticized the city and the mayor in an interview while speaking as representative of the police union.
Baton Rouge Police Officer Siya Creel was fired in December of 2020 after he gave an interview to a news reporter about some controversial billboards that warned motorists to enter the city “at your own risk.”
The billboards were posted by the Baton Rouge Union of Police in July and cited statistics that showed Baton Rouge is the fifth deadliest city in the United States, WAFB reported.
One of the billboards featured the city’s body count for the first six months of 2020 and quoted Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul saying “I’m worried.”
The Baton Rouge mayor went ballistic and demanded the police union immediately take down their billboards, WAFB reported.
“I am saddened for every police officer in Baton Rouge and every citizen,” Baton Rouge Union of Police President Sergeant Brandon Blust said. “Saddened by the Mayor’s response to public information billboards that were recently erected. Billboards that were put up to inform the citizens of this city of a very true and very serious situation. A growing situation that can only be slowed by working together with a well-informed city.”
Around the same time, Baton Rouge Police Officer Siya Creel gave an interview as vice president of the police union to investigative journalist Kiran Chawla for her YouTube channel, the reporter posted on her Facebook page.
Baton Rouge police opened an Internal Affairs investigation into Officer Creel, a five-year veteran of the department, shortly after the interview was posted online, WAFB reported.
Officer Creel, who was battling cancer at the same time, filed a lawsuit against his police department in early December that accused the agency of violating his “clearly established rights of Free Speech.”
On Dec. 15, Chief Paul announced that Officer Creel had been terminated for failure to comply with department policy, WAFB reported.
The officer’s termination paperwork said he was fired because he failed to get “proper authorization from Chief (Murphy) Paul’s office or the BRPD Public Relations Division to participate in an interview that would lead the general public to believe that you were representing BRPD.”
The paperwork said Officer Creel stood accused of conduct unbecoming an officer, unauthorized public statements, and carrying out social orders (social media), WAFB reported.
So Officer Creel appealed to the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board about his termination.
The appeal hearing on Monday lasted nearly 10 hours and ended at 1:30 a.m. on April 27, WAFB reported.
But when it was over, the civil service board had voted unanimously to give Officer Creel his job back.
During the hearing, members of the board learned that other Baton Rouge police officers who had been disciplined for similar infractions had only been suspended for a day or two, WAFB reported.
Jill Craft, the attorney for Officer Creel, told the board she thought Chief Paul had only fired the officer as retaliation for making him look bad.
Board members voted 5 to 0 to give Officer Creel his job back, WAFB reported.
The city has not yet said when Officer Creel will be returned to duty.
A GoFundMe for to help Officer Creel get through his suspension and his cancer battle has raised more than $28,000.