Police misconduct? Caught on tape, again
18th February 2013 · 0 Comments
The New Orleans Branch of the NAACP led a coalition of groups and leaders that demanded that the Orleans Parish District Attorney, the U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Orleans Parish Independent Police Monitor investigate the allegations of police misconduct that reportedly occurred on February 10, 2013, in the New Orleans French Quarter. The incident reportedly involved members of the NOPD 8th District and citizens Sidney Newman, Ferdinand Hunt and Mr. Hunt’s mother, an NOPD officer.
The incident was first reported by FOX 8 News.
Sidney Newman, 17, and Ferdinand Hunt, 18, were reportedly hanging out in the 700 block of Conti Street after attending a Sunday night parade not far from where Hunt’s mother, an 8th District NOPD officer, was working. The attack occurred as the two young men waited for Officer Hunt to pick up a meal for them.
Surveillance video obtained by FOX 8 shows Ferdinand Hunt leaning up against a building while Newman sat next to him.
“We were just sitting there laughing and out of nowhere, I saw two guys grab Ferd,” Newman told FOX 8 News.
“All of a sudden, I’m on the wall. A whole bunch of people just came up and threw me up against the wall,” Hunt recalled.
The two teens, who said they didn’t understand what was going on during the attack were forcibly taken down by 10 plainclothes law enforcement officers — nine state troopers and a member of the New Orleans Police Department.
“I was scared. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought they were trying to rob us,” says Hunt.
“At that point another guy came up and grabbed me by my hair and he was on top of me. At the same time, I’m calling, ‘Ferd.’ I’m asking Ferd, ‘Where’s your mother?’” Newman added.
Before things escalated, Officer Hunt arrived and identified the two teens, prompting the plainclothes officers to walk away.
“Why take a child or a young man that’s 130 pounds and sling him across? Why not just walk up to him and say, ‘What are you doing? What’s your name or why are you here?’ That’s a human being,” Sidney’s mother, Hazel Newman, told FOX 8 News. “I would hate to think that it was because these boys were young Black boys. I would hate to think that.”
State police told FOX 8 News that any allegations of racial profiling are absurd.
The state troopers were working as part of the Mardi Gras plainclothes detail and said last week that they were looking for juvenile violations, illegal weapons and narcotic activity at the time.
The state police told FOX 8 News that while they were patrolling the French Quarter, they noticed two individuals who appeared to be juveniles and decided to ID them. The troopers say they had detained both of them when they were approached by an NOPD officer who was interfering with the investigation and claiming it was her son.
The state police say the troopers verified the identification of the two young men and turned them over to the NOPD officer.
“This was Mardi Gras time, so you’re going to sling a kid rather than walk up and talk to them? That is incredible,” Hazel Newman told FOX 8 News.
An NOPD spokesman told FOX 8 News that the commander of the 8th District has viewed the surveillance video and, as it relates to the action of the NOPD officer, there were no obvious violations of misconduct.
The incident occurred just two days after a federal judge in New Orleans rejected an attempt by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to toss out the NOPD consent decree, which is designed to bring major reform to the embattled police department described by the Department of Justice as “corrupt and abusive.”
Critics of the consent decree in its current form say it is watered down and not likely to bring substantive change to the NOPD. Community United for Change, one of four groups seeking to intervene before U.S. Judge Susie Morgan made a final decision about the consent-decree proposal, argued that four years was not enough time to implement lasting changes and sought the including of a civilian oversight panel. Both of those ideas were reject, in part because they were opposed by both the DOJ and the Landrieu administration.
Family members of the two young men say they would be filing a complaint with the Justice Department. They followed through with those plans by visiting FBI headquarters Thursday.
This past weekend’s Mardi Gras celebration found the NOPD in concert with the Louisiana State Police (LSP) having their own Mardi Gras party and behaving with ‘business as usual,,’” W.C. Johnson, a member of Community United for Change and host of local cable-access show “OurStory,” told The Louisiana Weekly. “And to make matters worse, the Commander of the 8th District police precinct, upon viewing the video tape of the incident immediately declared ‘no foul play’ on the part of the officers. What this confirms from the NOPD is that the ‘Black Codes’ are still being enforced and Black folks have no rights that white folks are held accountable to respect.
“What the video of Sidney Newman and Ferdinand Hunt clearly demonstrates is how Adolph Grimes III was gunned down in cold blood by the NOPD New Year’s morning 2009,” Johnson added. “The video demonstrates how more than 100 other Black men, women and children have been killed without a second thought in the recent history of NOPD terror and murder. Ferdinand’s mother, who is a NOPD officer herself at the 8th District, has to become the next whistleblower to breathe life into the truth about what goes on behind the ‘blue cloak’ of protection that allows the NOPD to continue the reign of terror and murder in New Orleans.”
The New Orleans Branch of the NAACP says it felt compelled to respond after learning of the incident and is committed to holding the law enforcement officers involved accountable for what amounts to an unwarranted use of excessive force by the NOPD officer and the nine state troopers.
“The video of the incident raises serious questions of police brutality, racial profiling and other police misconduct,” NAACP president Danatus King said last week. “The video has caused grave concern in the community and the matter must be openly and publicly addressed immediately.
“It is further requested that the above agencies make public the findings of their investigations and that any misconduct that is found be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” King added.
“Nobody knows better than young Black men in New Orleans how racist and abusive the New Orleans Police Department is,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “If you saw the news report, there’s no denying that these plainclothes officers violated the constitutional rights of these two young men. For this to still be going on in New Orleans in 2013 is bad enough — for it to be happening after the Department of Justice called for major reforms in the NOPD is criminal.”
“How many times are Black groups and residents going to have to say that the city needs a new police chief — one that can get rid of the loose cannons on the force and make the city a safer place to live for everyone,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans-born businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “Decent, law-abiding Black people should not have to worry about being roughed up or murdered by some cop who think he has the right to do whatever he or she wants to whomever any time he or she feels like it.
“This is just more proof that major NOPD reforms are needed,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha added. “NOPD Chief Ronald Serpas needs to tom and Mayor Mitch Landrieu needs to go as well since he can’t seem to summon the courage to stand up for poor and Black people in New Orleans.”-
W.C. Johnson warned against the Black community relying on the Justice Department to save it.
“We must realize that the DOJ is part of the windmill we must fight,” Johnson told The Louisiana Weekly. “Nothing has come easy for Black folks in America. Black folks have been forced to fight every step of the way. Unfortunately, many Blacks believe we have arrived. The question is where have we landed? Certainly, we have not arrived at the point and time of dismantling our armor. But many Blacks, who have been allowed to share the scraps from ‘massa’s’ plate, are satisfied and hold other Blacks from reaching for the golden ring.
“As long as the DOJ does not see Black people actively fighting for their rights, the DOJ will be complacent to accept status quo. Black folks in New Orleans must know that they hold the keys to their future. Black folks must either fight or allow the status quo to reign supreme.”
“I am calling on the U.S Justice Department to investigate the unprovoked and unjustified police attack on Mr. Sidney Newman and Mr. Ferdinand Hunt in the New Orleans French Quarter on February 10, the Rev. Raymond Brown said Thursday. “In the meantime we will be planning a news conference to respond to this injustice. ‘No Justice No Peace!’”
“With these outrageous acts of overt racism by the NOPD, their efforts will accelerate while Black folks are left on the shores once again wondering how and why did this happen,” W.C. Johnson said. “CUC has been actively working on convening another Peoples Human Rights Tribunal. These are the type of actions that create a framework for greater acceptability and mobility for a community at-large. CUC’s Town Hall Meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, February 26, at the Historic St. James AME Church’s Meeting Hall located at 221 Derbigny St. for 6:00 p.m. is a good first step. This is a perfect beginning to a process that can achieve the necessary actions to address the perplexing acts of constitutional unrest and criminal conspiracy by the NOPD. CUC invites the community to attend and encourages organizations to be a part of taking our community back. For more information, call (504) 251-2201.”
*Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.
This article was originally published in the February 18, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper