Calls for punishment in questionable target practice using photo - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Calls for punishment in questionable target practice using Lee Zurik's photo

Updated:
A local crime watchdog says questionable target practice by some St. Bernard Parish deputies calls for punishment.
The head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says there are still more questions than answers about why police took aim at Lee Zurik.
It dates back to October 2011. When Zurik questioned why people voted in St. Bernard Parish during the local election, even though they have homestead exemptions elsewhere, things got heated.
The allegations of voter fraud involved regular citizens, as well as some sheriff's deputies, who apparently decided to target the messenger.
FOX 8 made the unsettling discovery in the weeks and months that followed the runoff election.
It shows police in St. Bernard Parish used a photo of Lee Zurik's face as a target during firearms training classes.
Outgoing Sheriff Jack Stephens says, "My understanding is that instructors had pictures posted and deputies used all the pictures. Lee was one of 4 or 5 different pictures posted and all the deputies were taking shots."
Stephens apologized, saying it wasn't meant to be a threat, but he didn't reprimand the deputies involved.
"With regards to any punishment, it's hard to use department policy, the law, or ethical violations as the premise for doing that, but it's in bad taste," says Stephens. "So we've admonished the training officers not to use actual photos of anyone anymore."
Rafael Goyeneche, Director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, calls the actions of those deputies unacceptable.
He says, "Imagine if that was just an average citizen who had a disagreement with police. That type of behavior needs to be curbed."
Goyeneche says a slap on the wrist isn't good enough.
"That conduct is egregious conduct and if the sheriff wants to discourage it, I don't believe an apology is enough," says Goyeneche. "I believe some type of more severe administrative action is needed. I'm not saying fire him, but if you want to get an employee's attention, you give them a one day suspension."
The story has gotten international attention, showing up in the Daily Mail, which is Great Britain's second biggest selling newspaper.
It's also the topic of several blogs..
On Fark.com, it's titled, "How do you know you're doing your job correctly as a local investigative reporter? When the local PD prints out your picture and gets caught using it for target practice."
And on another blog, American Zombie, an anonymous poster writes, "I think the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorneys office out of Washington, D.C. need to launch an investigation into this ASAP. This was meant to be a threat, end of story."
Sheriff Stephens played it off as gallow's humor, a case of dark satire.
In a rare interview at his office, he told Fox 8, "Never did I sense any hostility toward Lee. I think his name was topical and that's why the picture was there. As far as it being a threat, I know it wasn't intended to do that."
More than 10,000 people have watched the story on fox8live.com and the comments keep coming in.
One viewer writes, "Any police that participate in using photos of citizens other than criminals or anonymous figures should undergo psychiatric evaluations to determine what happened to their judgment.."
Cindy Montz Bordelon writes on FOX 8's Facebook page, "I bet if that were a picture of the president, someone would have been arrested!"
Goyeneche says the message to those involved should be clear.
He says, "You have to demonstrate to your rank and file that type of conduct is not going to be tolerated and an apology is insufficient."
Goyeneche doesn't believe any law was broken, but says almost every police department has some sort of code of conduct related to professionalism.
The Sheriff's office did not respond to
Powered by WorldNow

Fox 8 WVUE-TV
Louisiana Media Company, LLC.
1025 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway
New Orleans, LA 70125

General Number: (504) 486-6161
News Tips: (504) 483-1503
News Room Fax: (504) 483-1543

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WVUE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.