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Police chief says officers violated policy during strip-search of teen

2 years 11 months 3 weeks ago Thursday, May 27 2021 May 27, 2021 May 27, 2021 10:55 PM May 27, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Police Chief Murphy Paul said at least one Baton Rouge police officer violated department policy when a 16-year-old was strip-searched during a traffic stop last year.

That search ultimately led to a $35,000 lawsuit settlement with the city. The encounter happened in January 2020, though attorneys for two people involved in the incident shared video and details of the settlement with media outlets in Baton Rouge and nationwide this past week.

Attorneys said the officers stripped two people, including the teenager, on a "public street" and groped them as part of a "frisk" following a traffic stop. During the search, police found a loaded handgun in one of the subject's pants. Officers also found marijuana in the teenager's pants. 

A federal judge said the incident was concerning and that officers "demonstrated a serious and wanton disregard" for constitutional rights.  Attorneys said officers also searched the family's apartment without a search warrant.

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued a statement Wednesday evening calling the incident "disturbing".  During a news conference Friday, Chief Paul said that department policies were violated during the stop. Those violations sustained by the chief included conduct unbecoming of an officer, a violation of BRPD's body-worn camera policy, and another violation in regard to warrantless searches.

The department is still investigating the encounter and no discipline has been handed down as of Friday. 

Video of the incident was posted on YouTube by the attorneys.

WARNING: The video may not be suitable for all audiences. 

During the encounter, one officer is heard telling one of the two to calm down or the situation could escalate: "I’m going to come in [to the backseat of the police car] and f*** you up! You think I’m playing with you? I will f*** you up! I will f*** you clean up!” 

“The video is both banal and horrifying. It shows a form of ritualized humiliation and contempt for civil rights that, based on the lack of response from BRPD and DA Hillar Moore III, apparently has official sanction," the family's attorney, Thomas Frampton, wrote in a statement.

"These aren’t bad apples; there are some of the best officers on the force. It’s a miracle someone didn’t get killed . . . this time.”

While unrelated, the video has been released in the wake of another high-profile encounter with Baton Rouge Police.  LSU Football Player Koy Moore said he was handled inappropriately with officers during a late-night investigation of activity in an off-campus parking garage.  Baton Rouge Police said after Moore's complaint, it was working to train officers on better tactics.  

The video involving the settlement was in January, months before Moore's encounter with police. 

Police said the actions of one of the officers involved, Ken Camallo, is the focus of an internal affairs investigation.  

Police said the protocol is under investigation, but so far, a review does not show anything was done improper, a department spokesperson said.

While police were involved in the situation, settling the lawsuit was a decision by the EBR Metro Council and not the department. 

Police added a gun was found in the waistband of the older of the two people searched during the incident in January 2020.

The full statement from Mayor Broome read:

"Today, the very disturbing footage of an encounter between BRPD and citizens of our community was released and has justifiably raised the eyebrows of many in our community.

I stand by the federal judicial ruling in this case and the explicit and detailed judgment that was cast concerning the officers involved and their actions. While the involved individuals have received a civil remedy in this matter, the officers involved must be held accountable.

Chief Paul has briefed me that BRPD initiated an investigation when the complaint was first received. The matter is in the administrative process. We take all actions of this sort very seriously. We cannot go down a path that continues to tear at the fabric of trust between law enforcement and citizens. Transparency and accountability are a must. This week, Chief Paul plans to publicly address this case and the disciplinary path forward."

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