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Louisiana police apologize for officers in blackface before 1993 sting

NBC News logo NBC News 2/12/2019 Minyvonne Burke

A Baton Rouge police officer's badge is seen with a black band during a funeral service for police officer Matthew Gerald at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 22, 2016. © Jonathan Bachman/Reuters A Baton Rouge police officer's badge is seen with a black band during a funeral service for police officer Matthew Gerald at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 22, 2016. A Louisiana police department has found itself at the center of its own blackface scandal after a photo taken more than two decades ago surfaced showing two Baton Rouge officers wearing face and body paint to appear as if they are black.

In it, Lt. Don Stone and Capt. Frankie Caruso, who are white, are seen dressed in denim outfits, hats and sunglasses with their exposed skin covered in brown paint as they strike a pose for the camera.

The photo, taken in 1993, was in the Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook, according to the media outlet The Rouge Collection, which featured the photo on its site. The picture was captioned "Soul Brothers."

The image — the latest in blackface controversies popping up across the county in recent weeks — led to the Baton Rouge Police Department issuing an apology.

"Blackface photographs are inappropriate and offensive," police chief Murphy Paul said. "They were inappropriate then and are inappropriate today."

According to the police department, the photo was taken before Stone and Caruso went undercover for a drug bust in a predominantly black neighborhood.

"The Baton Rouge Police Department would like to apologize to our citizens and to anyone who may have been offended by the photographs," Paul said.

Stone still works for the police department and is a coordinator for the Greater Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers, according to its website. Caruso is retired. Calls made by NBC News to a number listed for Caruso were not immediately returned.

Paul said in his statement that the incident cannot be investigated because of how long ago the photo was taken.

"Today, we would not allow our officers to wear blackface in an official capacity under any circumstances," the statement read. "We have policies in place to prevent our officers from engaging in this type of behavior both on and off-duty."

East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome also issued a statement condemning the photo.

"Blackface is more than just a costume. It invokes a painful history in this country and it is not appropriate in any situation," she said." a man wearing a uniform: Image: Two Baton Rouge police officers pose in blackface in a Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook photo in 1993. © Baton Rouge Police Department Yearbook Image: Two Baton Rouge police officers pose in blackface in a Baton Rouge Police Department yearbook photo in 1993.

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