The Justice Department today announced that it reached an agreement with the City of Ville Platte and a separate agreement with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office to end alleged violations of the Constitution by both agency.
In December 2016, the DOJ released a report detailing its investigation of the Ville Platte Police Department and the sheriff’s office; it accused both agencies of violating the Fourth Amendment rights of parish citizens by using "investigative holds" to try to force those citizens to cooperate with investigations. You can read the entire report by scrolling down.
Under the agreements, VPPD and EPSO will develop policies and provide training and adequate supervision to officers to ensure the pattern or practice of unlawful seizures does not continue. The agencies also will increase transparency by collecting and reporting data on its Fourth Amendment activities.
You can read each agreement for yourself by scrolling down. The agreements exceed 20 pages and lay out extremely detailed procedures for police work by both agencies.
Here’s an example:
"VPPD will prohibit officers from relying on gossip, rumors, or hunches to justify an investigatory stop," the agreement states. "VPPD’s need or desire to question a person about a crime will not be considered in determining whether reasonable suspicion exists for the investigatory stop of that person."
The Department’s investigation into EPSO and VPPD began in April 2015 and concluded with the December 2016 report. The Department determined through interviews with command staff, detectives, officers, and a cross-section of community members, as well as review of documents including jail logs, arrest records, and more, that the investigative hold practice was routine at EPSO and VPPD.
Both agencies acknowledged that they sometimes used holds to investigate criminal activity for as long as anyone at the agency can remember. Because these “investigative holds” were conducted without probable cause, they violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"Both agencies cooperated fully throughout this matter, and we are eager to continue to work together with the Ville Platte Police Department, the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the local municipalities to help ensure that their officers can protect the public and investigate crime without violating the civil rights of members of the public," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of federally-protected rights. The Act also allows the Justice Department to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation. The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. enforces the Act.
Here’s the VPPD agreement:
Here’s the EPSO agreement:
And, here’s the December 2016 report: