Taylor Jones says he’ll never forget the November night when he had his first panic attack.
Jones, 28, had just started his usual night shift as a patrol officer for the Broussard Police Department when his heart started racing and his palms grew sweaty.
“Once I got on the road and started patrolling, I couldn’t focus,” Jones said. “I almost ran off the road and had to stop.”
Jones said he had received unwelcome, inappropriate texts and Snapchat messages from his police chief earlier that day.
He would ultimately quit his job in March as a result of the alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Brannon Decou, who has served as the police chief of Broussard for 20 years.
It’s been almost five months since the night when Jones had a panic attack behind the wheel of his police unit. Jones said he’s since shared evidence of the sexual harassment with his supervisor, the assistant police chief, the Broussard mayor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but nobody has taken his complaints seriously.
Jones said he’s sharing his story now in an attempt to shed light on the wrongdoing of an elected official and to protect the remaining officers. In addition to Jones, two other former officers shared their own stories of sexual misconduct during their employment at the Broussard Police Department for this story under the condition of anonymity because they still work in law enforcement.
The three men described a work environment where officers were hired and promoted based on appearance, where unwelcome sexual advances were the norm and where anyone who voiced concerns faced swift retaliation.
“If you ask around, Broussard is kind of known as the pretty boy place,” one officer said. “If you look good in a uniform, you pretty much get hired.”
Allegations against the Broussard police chief include:
- persistent and unwelcome sexual comments to his officers made in person, via text message and through social media
- sexual touching of a subordinate during a work Christmas party
- regular directives to employees to tailor their uniforms tighter
- a workplace culture where inappropriate comments pervade meetings, interoffice communications and day-to-day operations
- hiring discrimination against men who were perceived as less attractive
- use of sexual, derogatory nicknames in the workplace
- sexual assault of a then-16-year-old who lived in his home and later worked for the Police Department
When asked about the the allegations, Decou said he could not comment at this time.
Personal texts, snapchat
Jones, a retired Marine who has worked for another law enforcement agency, said he’ll never go back to working as an officer after his experience at the Broussard Police Department. To see also : April 2021 Issue | National Law Journal.
He started working as a Broussard officer in September of 2019. Although he said there were sometimes inappropriate jokes made during staff meetings, Jones made it through his first year at the agency without significant discomfort because he worked overnight shifts and rarely interacted with the police chief.
“When I first started, I thought it was pretty great,” Jones said. “Everything was well structured. It seemed like your efforts were acknowledged. It wasn’t until later that I learned that wasn’t true. I tended to get more praise than others but never knew it because it all came directly from the chief through official emails.”
The alleged sexual harassment did not begin until November 2020, according to Jones.
In screenshots shared with The Acadiana Advocate, Decou appears to have sent Jones sexually suggestive text messages from his personal cell phone number on Nov. 17. When Jones ignored an inappropriate text message, Decou explained the joke in more clear terms via text message.
“The ‘tip’ comment was a sly remark on the other side outside of work mode,” Decou wrote in a text message to Jones at about 12:30 p.m. Nov. 17. “We can cut up anytime. It helps keep things fun… I can always separate work and personal so feel free to be open with me anytime.”
Decou then asked Jones if he had a Snapchat account, and the conversation continued in the social media app where pictures and messages are only available for a short time before they disappear. Jones said he was reluctant to add his police chief on Snapchat but agreed, in part, because Decou had told him in writing that he needed to loosen up.
Jones said he initially tried to ignore Decou’s Snapchat messages and photos, but Decou asked why he was leaving them unread. Jones said the first photo he received was of Decou in which he appeared to be naked, although the image was cropped just above the genitalia. Jones said he was not able to save the photo because of the way the social media platform is designed, and if he took a screenshot, it would have notified the sender, who was his highest-ranking boss.
Later that same day, Jones said Decou continued to cross the line. He would eventually decide to take screenshots of the Snapchat messages, even though the action would notify Decou.
“You gonna send scandalous pics sometime?” Decou wrote in a Nov. 17 Snapchat message to Jones.
“I dunno about all that lol,” Jones replied.
“Hmm why not? I think you do hehe,” Decou wrote.
“Im not much of a picture taker. And I’m married,” Jones wrote.
“Yea yea yea excuses lol. She would be ok with it I’m sure lol,” Decou wrote.
Jones said he continued to try to skirt the police chief’s requests in their Snapchat exchanges but eventually stated clearly that he was uncomfortable with the conversation.
“I’ll be honest. I’m ok with being friendly and cutting up and everything, but scandalous pictures is definitely outside of my comfort zone,” Jones wrote in an exchange later that day.
“Ok cool. Now I know different than what I thought. We are good with anything so it’s all good here,” Decou wrote.
From there, the police chief asked his subordinate to keep the conversation confidential and shifted the topic to Jones’ home life and hobbies.
When Jones decided to take screenshots of the Snapchat messages the next day, Decou asked about it via the social media app. Jones wrote that he had accidentally taken screenshots while cleaning his phone.
“Hmmm ok lol,” Decou wrote in response. “Do you normally shoot prematurely like that?”
Decou also sent a photo of himself without a shirt via Snapchat that same day, Nov. 18.
Jones said the messages became less frequent after he took the screenshots, although Decou sent him Snapchat messages again on Nov. 25 and Dec. 4 to ask why he’d been so quiet. The police chief also asked if Jones’ silence had anything to do with their previous conversations.
A final Snapchat message, another shirtless photo of Decou, was sent to Jones in the early hours of Christmas Day.
Jones said he started looking for employment outside of the Broussard Police Department soon after he received the inappropriate text and Snapchat messages.
“It didn’t take me long to decide I was done,” Jones said. “I talked to my direct supervisor. I tried to not give him too much information, just because he would have to do something about it right away and I still needed a job, but he kind of figured it out anyway and we went from there.”
A formal complaint
With support from his supervisor, Jones filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
He had a phone interview with an EEOC representative on Jan. 15 to discuss the complaint further. Jones said he was disappointed by the outcome.
“They didn’t ask for the pictures or anything,” Jones said. “I kind of felt like they blew it off.”
The EEOC does not comment on specific complaints or the outcomes of any investigations, according to an agency spokesperson. The commission defines harassment as being illegal when:
- It becomes a condition of continued employment.
- The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile or offensive to reasonable people.
- It is in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation or opposing discriminating employment practices.
EEOC Spokesperson James Ryan said discrimination law, which includes sexual harassment, is both simple and complicated.
In theory, it should be common sense: Don’t mistreat employees. In reality, it can be difficult to define and determine when a line is crossed. The EEOC typically pursues cases that have the highest chance of success in court and will impact the greatest number of people.
“The EEOC is not your only resource,” Ryan said. “We encourage people to come to the EEOC first; however, you can also go to a state or local civil rights agency.”
Jones did not resign from his position at the Broussard Police Department until he had secured a new job at a shooting range.
When Jones submitted his resignation March 29, he left packets with his supervisor, the assistant police chief and the Broussard mayor that included the allegations against Decou, screenshots of the inappropriate messages and his contact information.
“And from what I’m being told by people that still work there, the chief was seen coming back to the office with the photos I gave to the mayor’s office,” Jones said. “And now they’re being told not to talk about it and that there’s rumors going around.”
Jones said the attorney who represents the city of Broussard and its police department reached out to him last week. Jones has since hired lawyer Lee Durio to represent him at an upcoming meeting with Gerald deLaunay, the attorney for the Broussard Police Department.
Broussard Mayor Ray Bourque sent a statement by email in response to an interview request for this story.
“We received a complaint from a former Police Department employee,” Bourque wrote. “We take these matters very seriously, and as is our policy, we deferred this to our legal department. They are currently handling all matters concerning the complaint. We cannot comment any further on an employee matter.”
Decou referred a reporter to the mayor’s statement when confronted with the specific allegations made by his former officers.
Jones isn’t the only former officer who has alleged sexual harassment while working at the Broussard Police Department. Read also : Former Attorney General and legal activist Ramsey Clark dies at 93 – Erie News Now.
Two others agreed to discuss their experience in the workplace only if their names were not used because both are still employed in law enforcement and are prohibited from speaking with members of the media in their current roles.
One officer worked at the Broussard Police Department for about a year from 2019 to 2020. The other worked at the Police Department about eight years ago for a similar amount of time.
In separate interviews, the former officers described in detail the sexual harassment they say they experienced during their employment.
“It was a nightmare,” said the more recent employee. “It’s a nightmare that I’m glad is over.”
He said Decou instructed his officers to tailor their uniforms tighter to show off their biceps and suggested those who engaged in oral sex with the chief would be rewarded with one of the Police Department’s new vehicles.
“The chief made a joke that he would put the keys around his d—, and whoever wanted the cars could take the keys off with their mouth,” the former officer said.
He also alleges that the police chief admitted to having an interest with a young man who he later hired — something that had long been a rumor within the Police Department.
Later, the former officer said he faced retaliation for filing a complaint within the Police Department over the chief’s sexual misconduct. The former officer shared an audio recording with The Acadiana Advocate of a meeting with the assistant police chief during his resignation last year.
“The chief told me to repeat to you about the resignation,” Assistant Chief Chris Galvez said in the recording. “That it’ll stay that way as long as you don’t talk ill of him or the department.”
The officer who worked for the Broussard Police Department eight years ago said sexual harassment was continuous and pervasive in the workplace during his employment but it crossed over into sexual assault during the annual Christmas party.
“The most alarming and outright frustrating was at the annual Christmas parties,” the former officer said. “He starts drinking alcohol. He starts feeling a lot more loose, and right in front of your significant other he’s making suggestive comments, he’s rubbing against you. It’s extremely awkward, and he doesn’t care that he’s the chief. He doesn’t care that you’re the subordinate. None of that matters.”
The man said he never filed a formal complaint against Decou internally or externally because he didn’t believe his concerns would be taken seriously and his primary concern was to find employment elsewhere. He also feared his complaint would be viewed as homophobic because the police chief is gay.
“Brannon always falls back on the ‘I’m gay, and if people are complaining about me it’s because I’m gay,'” the former officer said. “That’s bull. Nobody in law enforcement gives a damn if you’re gay or not. Brannon throws that in there any time someone has a problem with him because that has always been his scapegoat. And as far as reporting it goes, there’s no one really to report it to.”
Reluctant male victims
Workplace sexual harassment tends to be underreported, and reporting becomes even less likely in certain sectors and among certain populations — including in law enforcement and among male victims.
About 43% of men report experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. About 13% of those men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
“In law enforcement, we know there’s a lot of unique power and social dynamics,” said Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “There can be even more pressure that you don’t report one of your own or you don’t challenge the behavior of the supervisor because of what has been set as the standard where, no matter what happens, you need to tolerate it and do your job, otherwise you’re not fit to work here. That is something that is a factor that is likely to be silencing these victims as well.”
The nonprofit also reports that many men do not identify or describe sexual harassment or assault the same way as women do, with men often times describing the experiences as “unwanted” or “abusive” instead of as harassment or assault. Men are also sometimes reluctant to report sexual misconduct for fear of how their own sexuality will be perceived by others.
“For some men, part of what is difficult for them in reporting harassment publicly is not wanting to be perceived as gay or identified as gay or out as gay,” Palumbo said. “It’s interesting in that way because that can be leveraged as a way to keep people silent.”
Palumbo said this particular case with the Broussard Police Department could be even more complicated because accusers could also fear that they’ll be seen as homophobic or discriminatory against a gay police chief.
The three former officers who allege sexual harassment by Decou said they expect more people will come forward once their story is public.
“This is something that has been a long time coming,” said the officer who worked for the Broussard Police Department eight years ago. “I don’t know how this man has gotten away with it as long as he has. It was only a matter of time before somebody finally said, ‘This is bulls—, and I’m willing to risk everything for it.’ Unfortunately, most of us are in a position where we got a family we got to support, so you just find your exit strategy and get out of there.”