BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Baton Rouge mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome and police chief Murphy Paul have asked a judge’s permission to release body camera footage of an incident involving a BRPD officer and a 13-year-old.
Viral cell phone video of the encounter shows the officer with his arm behind the child’s neck, pinning him to the ground.
Because the body camera footage involves a juvenile, a judge will have to sign off on its public release.
“We will not skirt around any issues,” Broome said. “I will make sure this is thoroughly investigated. Since he’s been on board, the chief has not shied away from tough issues.”
Paul says his department will conduct a full investigation and determine whether the officer shirked his training.
Police say someone called 9-1-1 Sunday afternoon and complained about a group of teenagers arguing outside and holding baseball bats. Officers arrived, calmed the children, and left without incident.
But the fight resumed and police returned 30 minute after their first visit. They arrested two 13-year-olds, including the boy shown in the video.
He is charged with disturbing the peace, battery of a police officer, resisting an officer, and interfering with the law. The family’s attorney, Ron Haley, met with the child after he left juvenile detention Sunday night.
The other child was released from police custody, effectively with a summons for disturbing the peace and resisting an officer.
“If that officer did not have a badge or a uniform on, and was an adult on the ground with a child in that manner, he’d be arrested,” said Haley, a prominent civil right’s lawyer in Baton Rouge. “Nowhere should an unarmed 13-year-old, who is not a danger to himself or others, be treated like a grown-up.”
Haley contends police would’ve charged the child with a different crime if he was a threat to anyone’s safety.
“Bottom line is this: what happened to that kid is wrong. An adult should not be in a confrontation or a fight of that magnitude with a kid,” Haley said.
The officer has not been placed on administrative leave and remains at work.
“The general public has to understand that the 23-second clip (posted to social media) of the interaction between the officer and the juvenile is just a snapshot in time of what transpired prior to or even after the encounter,” Andrew Scott, a former Florida police chief who now lends his use-of-force expertise to attorneys in court, said.
“When I looked at that video, there was nothing wrong tactically that the police officer was doing,” Scott said, noting the officer’s hands were behind the teen’s neck and it on top of it. “The individual was capable of breathing and the officer had placed his body weight into the chest of the young boy.”
He said viewers of the viral video should reserve judgment until body camera footage is released.
Attorney Haley and chief Paul each linked the incident to a recent BRPD policy change involving children. Baton Rouge police will no longer use canines to respond to most incidents involving juveniles.
Paul indicated he’d be willing to change policies in a similar manner if this investigation involving the 13-year-old revealed a shortcoming with police protocol. Haley contends the canine policy change might reflect a larger problem with the department’s handling of children.
Paul says he’s reviewed the body camera footage and that it “shows a complete picture of what happened.”
“There’s a lot of video evidence there,” he said. “Until (the investigation is complete), we’re asking the community to respect the process we have in place right now so that we can conclude the work and present all the facts.”
Mayor Broome issued the following statement about the incident on Sunday, Feb. 21:
“I have viewed the short snippet of video and snapshots shared via social media. The actions I viewed prompted me to contact our Chief of Police to ensure he was aware of this situation. Chief Paul has assured me the reformed system that has been implemented under our leadership will allow for a prompt, transparent review of this incident.
I want our community to know that the relationship between our community and the police is very important to me. BRPD officers have hundreds of encounters that we never hear of because they go without incident. Yet, it is incumbent on me to use my role as Mayor to bring attention to those that are questionable in order to help build public trust and ultimately encourage the best policing tactics from our officers. I am resolute that we will have a unified and safe Baton Rouge. We will solve our toughest issues together.”
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