The Baton Rouge Police Department has rehired an officer fired more than 20 years ago based on allegations that he put his hand down a woman’s pants on one call and grabbed a young man by the throat and put his crotch in the teen's face during another.
Officer Tramelle Neldare appealed his termination to both the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board and 19th Judicial District Court — both declined to reinstate him. But he was rehired and placed on street patrol in March, a decision that has rankled the police chief who fired him.
“The public has a right to expect that a law enforcement officer will not use his authority to force someone into a sexually compromising position,” former Police Chief Greg Phares, who fired Neldare, said in a recent interview. “It’s my belief that any individual who engaged in that sort of activity shouldn’t be a law enforcement officer.”
BRPD has defended the process that resulted in Neldare’s rehiring.
“All police officer applicants for the Baton Rouge Police Department are required to complete an exhaustive process to be hired,” Deputy Chief Myron Daniels said in a statement. “At the conclusion of the hiring process and the completion of all mandated screenings, an objective, fair and impartial decision was made to employ Officer Neldare.”
But District Attorney Hillar Moore III says Neldare’s past could endanger prosecutions in which he is a witness.
Since being rehired, Neldare has been added to Moore’s “Brady list,” which is named after the 1963 Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors cannot withhold evidence which might exonerate a defendant.
The Brady list, which Moore began in 2015, tracks any law enforcement agent previously found to be untruthful. Moore says he is required to inform defense attorneys when an officer on the list might testify in court.
“We will look at cases as they come in, but I would hope that he does not become a witness in any of our cases because of the background,” Moore said. “It would just be really unfair to the victims that he may be protecting and working for. It really puts a burden on us.”
Daniels said it’s up to Moore to decide who ends up on the Brady list.
“Currently, there are several law enforcement officers on the list who have proven to be very effective criminal justice professionals,” he said in the statement. “Conversely, there are several names that are not on the Brady list that I believe should [be]."
Attempts to reach Neldare by phone, email and social media for comment were unsuccessful.
The first accusations
The first incident for which Neldare was disciplined occurred outside a teen club on Florida Boulevard in July 2000. A 19-year-old man was told earlier to leave the area but later returned to see if his younger sister needed a ride, documents from BRPD's Internal Affairs investigation say.
Neldare recognized him as he drove by and had another officer conduct a traffic stop; after the man got out of the car, Neldare grabbed him by the throat, pushed his face against the hot hood of the car and repeatedly called him a “b***h” before making him get on his knees, according to Neldare’s termination letter.
“You told him to get down on his knees and then stood directly in front of him with your crotch in his face,” the letter stated.
Neldare made comments about the 19-year-old engaging in oral sex with him, the man and a friend who was with him testified at the officer's 2001 Civil Service Board hearing.
Neldare issued the man a seatbelt violation, slapped his buttocks as he stood up and called him his “little b****," the termination letter said.
The man’s mother told the Civil Service board that he got home around 2 a.m., red in the face and crying, and told her what had happened. Photos of the man taken by Internal Affairs investigators — BRPD officers who handle complaints of misconduct — showed a fingernail print still on his neck, according to board meeting minutes.
Neldare denied to Internal Affairs investigators and the Civil Service Board all allegations of misconduct during the traffic stop.
In the second incident, about a month later, Neldare and another officer were investigating a disturbance on Evangeline Street when they saw a domestic dispute taking place at the house next door, according to his termination letter. Neldare intervened and learned that the 30-year-old woman living at the house was arguing with her boyfriend.
In his own police report on the incident, which the department said he didn't submit until ordered to do so, Neldare said he spoke to the boyfriend outside and told him that “there was enough p---y to go around 10 times or more and not to get caught up on just one.”
“Ofc. [Neldare] advised that it did not matter if she could stand on her head and make her p---y whistle dixie, sometimes you just have to move on,” Neldare reported himself saying.
Neldare released the boyfriend a short time later and walked into the woman’s home to talk to her. According to documents from Internal Affairs investigators, she was trying to explain to Neldare that she was concerned for her safety if her boyfriend returned when the officer made her two young daughters go to their rooms.
Neldare brought her to her kitchen, said he wanted to “see what you got” that had her boyfriend going “crazy” and slid his hand down the front of her pants, Neldare's termination letter said. She resisted by pulling away, it said.
He asked her what she could do in exchange for 24-hour protection and suggested she cook for him or give him a back massage, she later told investigators. She said she didn’t do either of those things.
Neldare left soon after her teenage son arrived home, according to his termination letter.
The woman reached out to BRPD to file a complaint the same day, Internal Affairs documents show. Neldare didn’t submit his police report until the next day, after his lieutenant instructed him to do so.
When he met with supervisors to discuss the matter, Neldare told them he understood the misconduct in his police report but denied ever touching the woman, Internal Affairs documents say.
In his police report he said he offered to “sit around her house for a while” if “she was cooking something good,” but that he did so “in a joking way.”
In civil service board testimony, he denied asking her what she could do for 24-hour protection.
Phares terminated Neldare in December 2000 for conduct unbecoming an officer, sexual harassment and untruthfulness. In the recent interview, Phares said he couldn't recall now, 23 years later, why no criminal charges were pursued.
Neldare's appeals to the Civil Service Board and 19th Judicial District Court were unsuccessful.
Neldare was hired by the Pointe Coupee Sheriff’s Office in 2002 and left in 2006 to join the Port Allen police department, where he remained until resigning in 2010, according to Pointe Coupee Sheriff's Office personnel records and West Baton Rouge Parish court records.
Back on the force
Despite the firing, BRPD hired Neldare again in March 2023 as a uniform patrol officer with a salary of about $56,000 per year, according to public employee records. Those records list Neldare as having zero years of experience.
Daniels said salaries are determined by the “amount of law enforcement experience” an officer has. New officers with no experience typically start with a salary of about $41,000 per year, according to BRPD’s recruiting page.
BRPD employee records also indicate that one of the people who accused Neldare of misconduct is now a patrol officer for the department as well.
Moore, the district attorney, says Neldare’s past is a problem for prosecutors.
“Any time he would make an arrest or be called, we would have to notify the defendant and his lawyer that he’s been found to be untruthful,” Moore explained. “It makes it very difficult for us to successfully prosecute when there’s a sustained finding that he’s been untruthful.”
How relevant past disciplinary action against police officers is in a case largely depends on what role they played in arrests and how severe their offenses are, Moore explained. Depending on those factors, prosecutors may avoid using them as witnesses, look for alternative evidence like body camera footage, or dismiss the case entirely, he said.
Moore said officers are normally added to the Brady list whenever news emerges about an officer’s misconduct or when an agency chooses to report its own officers to his office.
Most officers on the Brady list no longer serve in law enforcement, Moore said, such as former BRPD Narcotics Detective Jason Acree, whose alleged misconduct contributed to the dismissal of more than 100 cases.
In Neldare’s case, Moore said he “just can’t ever see" calling him as a witness given the past allegations and the discipline taken.