Groups call for police chief's resignation after seeing Nakamoto's report about excessive force
HAMMOND – Local groups called for the police chief to resign following video leaked to WBRZ and broadcast on the 6 o’clock news Tuesday showing the Hammond Police Chief using what has been described as excessive forced and borderline criminal.
“We are dismayed and extremely disappointed that Hammond Police Chief Edwin Bergeron and Mayor Pete Panepinto have yet to release a statement regarding the incidents,” the state, Hammond area and Baton Rouge NAACP groups said in a joint letter released to WBRZ Wednesday.
The video was leaked to WBRZ’s Chris Nakamoto and shown on the news this week. It showed Chief Edwin Bergeron, who was not the police chief at the time, punching a suspect five times who was being detained on drug offenses. The suspect, Kentdrick Ratliff, was handcuffed and reached for a bottle of pills the officers had confiscated when he was punched. Ratliff is wedged between a desk and a set of computers and within 20 seconds, he is kicked and tazed. Over the course of a minute, more officers arrive and are seen putting a boot on Ratliff's neck. Another officer knelt on him.
"When I first saw that video, the first thing I thought was this is atrocious," Eugene Collins with the NAACP said. "Knowing the NAACP worked the situation a few years ago and at that point we were under the understanding that video did not exist...only clips."
One of the officers involved was disciplined and later hired an attorney and use of force consultant to review the footage who determined some actions were legal, though found Bergeron acting "excessive and borderline criminal."
"I got beat, stomped, kicked in my groin," Ratliff said in an interview with WBRZ.
Hammond officials refused to comment; A spokesperson said the video was irrelevant.
The chief of police at the time was concerned enough to involve federal authorities. Soon after, then-chief James Stewart was replaced.
Edwin Bergeron was appointed police chief in March of 2019 by the mayor of Hammond.
Attorneys have been told by the city of Hammond, the video shown on TV, did not exist, according to Ratliff's attorney, Ravi Shah.
In the letter calling for the chief’s resignation, the NAACP local groups wrote: ”This behavior is egregious enough, but a blatant lie accompanied this behavior by your Police Department that the leaked video did not exist. Years later, good Officers on the Hammond Police Department leaked both the video and report in question. In light of everything we now know, we demand the immediate resignation of Chief Edwin Bergeron.”
The WBRZ Investigative Unit reached out to the Mayor, but we did not hear back. We also spoke to three council members who all said they had not seen the full video before a decision was made to appoint Bergeron as Chief.
"We have law enforcement officers from all over the state calling us saying this is bad," Collins said. "He went too far. There are consultants that looked at this saying it's borderline criminal. If the mayor saw this video before he appointed the police chief, this is not a man who can be trusted to run the city. He needs to be held accountable as well."
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