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FBI re-investigating after video leaks of now Hammond police chief punching handcuffed suspect

3 years 10 months 1 week ago Friday, September 04 2020 Sep 4, 2020 September 04, 2020 8:46 PM September 04, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

HAMMOND - A video from 2017 of the now Hammond Police Chief using what has been described as an excessive amount of force has led to outrage and demand for change.

The Hammond City Council met on Tuesday, Sept. 8, to vote on initiating an investigation into the mayor's appointment of Police Chief Edwin Bergeron and discuss removing him from his current position.

The council unanimously voted to pass a resolution, demanding an investigation.

In a 3 to 2 vote, the council voted to approve the resolution asking the mayor to remove the police chief from his position. The mayor said during the meeting he does not plan on doing so.

On Monday night, members of the community, the Louisiana and Baton Rouge chapters of the NAACP, and multiple council members met to discuss the incident caught on tape, calling for the investigation to be reopened.

There was no immediate action taken on Monday night. At least one council member telling WBRZ that a resolution will be drafted, asking Hammond's mayor to remove the police chief from his position. That resolution will reportedly be brought up at next Tuesday's council meeting.

The video from 2017 shows Edwin Bergeron, a sergeant at the time, beating Kentdrick Ratliff, who was handcuffed, with a closed fist.

The incident took place after Ratliff was approached by police for parking over a sidewalk and was arrested for drug possession.

When Ratliff was taken into the booking room, he eventually reached for his pills, which he has since admitted was a mistake. Ratliff was immediately hit at least five times by Bergeron.

After being punched, Ratliff was tazed, kicked and held down by multiple officers before he is seen being dragged away on the surveillance video.

Bergeron was the mayor's pick for police chief in 2019. Councilmember Devon Wells says they never saw the full video of the incident before approving that decision. At least two other council members also said they did not see the video beforehand.

The full video was leaked to the WBRZ Investigative Unit in early August. A third party investigator reviewing the footage said the officers' use of force was "excessive" and "borderline criminal." That independent investigation was launched after one officer received disciplinary action for kicking Ratliff during the incident.

"I've been knowing that chief, never had a problem with him. But when I saw that video of the chief punching that guy, I lost all respect for him. That was wrong," one concerned member of the community said during the meeting.

Bergeron and Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto were both in attendance Monday night, but have refused multiple interviews with WBRZ.

Panepinto did speak about the video during the meeting, saying, "When this came up, he (the police chief in 2017, James Stewart) immediately looked into it. The attorney directed them to bring it up to the FBI. They investigated. They came back with nothing."

The mayor also added later on that the FBI is now re-investigating the incident. 

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