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'Excessive and unreasonable': Investigators want prosecutors to review booking room brawl

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HAMMOND - After more than a year of reviewing a booking room beating exposed by the WBRZ Investigative Unit in the summer of 2020, the findings were turned over to the Hammond City Council Tuesday night. The video showed officers beating a handcuffed Black man as he was being booked in 2017.

Lawyer Michael Adams from Baton Rouge was hired to look into the case. He told WBRZ that it's his recommendation the case be turned over to state and federal prosecutors.

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A damning report accompanied with a video from the encounter in 2017 was leaked to the WBRZ Investigative Unit, raising questions and spurring community outrage over why nothing happened to some of the officers seen in the video using extraordinary force on a man who was handcuffed.

After the fallout from WBRZ's story, the city of Hammond hired Adams to review the case. He partnered with Seth Stoughton, a nationally known use-of-force expert. The findings called the beating excessive and unreasonable after conducting numerous interviews and reviewing files.

"His most recent case was he was a testifying expert for the government in the George Floyd case," Adams said. "He has tremendous credentials."

That's not all, the findings also uncovered more problems in the Hammond Police Department.

Among some of the other issues: a jail inmate committed suicide while correctional officers failed to conduct proper checks, the agency covered up an officer's involvement in an off-duty altercation, and Chief Edwin Bergeron allocated on-duty officers to a private event.

Adams said changes need to be made starting with leadership.

"It's difficult for me to believe that he should remain chief of police in Hammond," Adams said. "I think the city council and the mayor need to methodically go through our findings, and I would be surprised if they come to a different conclusion."

Adams said in addition to changes in leadership, he thinks there needs to be additional training for officers.

"It is eye-opening that the police department has some of the problems that we found in it," said Adams, who is representing the city of Hammond. "Not just from this booking room incident, so we are recommending that the police department go through a full audit from the bottom to the top."

The city of Hammond spent about $60,000 for the study and findings. They can either accept the findings or choose to do nothing with them.


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