Former NOPD chief questions why state didn’t release more info on juvenile escapee
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A juvenile offender’s escape from state custody while being transported to court in New Orleans, and the subsequent response from the state, has law enforcement experts questioning whether officials acted in the best interests of public safety.
When Curtis Tassin, 17, escaped from Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) custody for the third time this week, OJJ only notified the public that a “17-year-old male from New Orleans” escaped.
During a 2022 escape from Bridge City with multiple other inmates, Tassin was reported as being “armed and dangerous.”
So why wasn’t the public given his name, a physical description or a photograph?
“The public has a right to know, under the law, who has escaped from custody and particularly if they are a violent offender,” said former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas.
The city, in denying Fox 8′s public records request for surveillance video of the escape, which happened at the city-run Juvenile Justice Intervention Center (or JJIC), the city cited article 412 of the Louisiana Children’s Code.
Article 412 governs any escapes of juvenile inmates from state custody. Section J reads, “Whenever a child escapes from a juvenile detention center, law enforcement agencies are hereby authorized to release to the public the child’s name, age, physical description, and photograph.”
“As juveniles have been escaping from custody here locally over the last couple of years, there have been very bad outcomes in many of those cases,” Serpas said. “If a police department does not report that in a public way, it is going to cause questions to be asked.”
NOPD, when asked about the release of relevant information, directed to Louisiana State Police and OJJ, saying the department simply provided assistance in the search.
OJJ had Tassin’s information (name, physical description, picture) but chose not to authorize any law enforcement agencies to release it.
“It’s a policy decision by OJJ, it’s nothing we can force them to do from a policy standpoint. But currently there’s no law. It’s common sense they notify anybody who has the potential to be harmed by an escapee,” said Senator Patrick Connick (R-Marrero).
Fox 8 has put in a public records request, seeking any documentation on OJJ’s policies and protocols regarding the transportation of juvenile inmates and what the agency does in the case of an escape.
Serpas said there is no difference between a violent adult inmate escaping prison and a juvenile regarding potential danger to the public.
“To release the name and description of a violent offender who is a juvenile to protect the community at large would fall within the law,” he said. “If that is the case, then not responding in such a way would cause people to question why wouldn’t the police or state officials notify a community?”
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