NOPD use-of-force video gets thousands of YouTube views; ACLU weighs in

Published: Sep. 24, 2016 at 12:47 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2016 at 1:13 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - After a week of protests in two American cities, the New Orleans police chief admits a video he produced to try and curb problems here is just a start. But he and others say it might not be bad for everyone to look at the production designed to keep civilians and police safe during traffic stops.

Police say all too often, citizens appear to be confused about what they can and cannot do during a police stop, and the chief wants to change that.

"Keep your hands where we can see you. We are only authorized to use force as necessary," Harrison says in the video.

The NOPD  produced it to teach the public about police objectives and their rights in hopes of avoiding the kind of shootings that resulted in protests this week in Tulsa and Charlotte.

"I don't think that video alone is enough. It's a video we hope people will watch, especially young people," said Harrison.

But Marjorie Esman with the Louisiana Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "I think there's a lot that it doesn't do."

The video says it's okay to ask an officer why you're being stopped, and the chief says the officer must tell you. The video then lays out what's called the "continuum of force" that describes when an officer may frisk you, handcuff you, use a taser or deadly force.

"Then the last thing is firearms, the last resort," Harrison says in the 12-minute video which has gotten more than 6,000 YouTube views.

"As far as it goes, it's a useful tool," said Esman.

It's a tool that says officers must suspect criminal activity before a stop, and may not use force unless the subject fails to follow commands.

While Esman says it's not a bad idea for civilians to look at the video to understand what their rights are, she says there are times when a civilian has the right to question their authority. She says officers do not have the right to ask you where you are going or ask passengers for ID's unless they have cause to believe there has been or about to be criminal activity - and they have to say so.

"Comply, but remember there are questions they don't have the right to ask...and you're not obligated to answer," said Esman.

She says depending on the situation, you may want to comply and argue later. She also says thanks in large part to the consent decree, the department is getting far fewer use-of-force complaints than it used to.

Chief Harrison urges civilians to go to the Public Integrity Bureau with complaints about officers they believe are acting inappropriately, and not try and settle it on the scene. He says arguing on the scene may only increase tension in an already tense situation.

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