RICHARD BURGESS; ACADIANA BUREAU
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LAFAYETTE - The Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board voted Tuesday to overturn the termination of one officer who tested positive for steroids and uphold the termination of a second officer who also tested positive for the drug, according to one the men's attorneys.
John Keith Richard and Trampus Gaspard were fired from the Lafayette City Police Department last year after positive drug tests in an internal affairs investigation that focused on alleged connections the officers had to a drug suspect.
Both men appealed their terminations to the civil service board.
Gaspard's attorney, Daniel Landry, said late Tuesday that the board voted 4-0 to reinstate Gaspard and 3-1 to uphold Richard's termination.
During a 10-hour hearing Tuesday, the former officers argued that the positive drug test results could have been attributed to their unknowing use of dietary supplements that were tainted with the steroids. "I have no idea how it would have gotten in my system ... ," Richard testified.
An expert in toxicology who the officers hired stated in a report that the dietary supplements used by fitness buffs are sometimes contaminated with illegal steroids.
An expert who oversaw the officers' steroid testing, toxicologist Timothy Robert, countered that while there have been reports of tainted supplements, the steroid detected in the drug tests - stanozolol - has never been reported as a supplement contaminant.
The officers' attorneys, Landry and Bill Goode, also argued that the Police Department failed to follow city-parish government's policies and procedures for drug testing, alleging that internal affairs did not have reasonable suspicion to test the two officers and that several protocols were not followed.
The internal affairs investigation began after a third officer, Jason Galatas, reported to a fourth officer, Jason Herpin, that Galatas was aware of a large amount of marijuana in a friend's apartment, according to internal affairs investigator Sgt. Darryl Fontenot.
He testified that Galatas, who has also been terminated, allegedly told Herpin that he did not want police to act on the information because he knew the people involved and that one of them was allegedly Gaspard's source for steroids.
Galatas ultimately agreed to serve as the witness for other officers to obtain a search warrant.
Fontenot said that Richard was targeted in the investigation because during the search he had spoken with the drug suspect and allegedly did not inform other officers that he was aware the suspect was in a nearby apartment.
"I thought we had reasonable suspicion from day one," Fontenot said. "... It just seemed like there was something more to that."
Richard, who said he knew the suspect because he worked with his brother doing security at Club 410 downtown, said the suspect had called him to find out details about the drug search.
Richard also said he had indeed informed the other officers that the suspect was in a nearby apartment and that he arranged for the suspect to contact police and turn himself in.
May 24, 2006
La. board OKs firing officer who tested positive for steroids