State Police Col. Mike Edmonson told legislators Tuesday that his officers acted reasonably when they tackled two black youths to the ground in the French Quarter during Carnival season.
Edmonson said the youths were not kicked or struck. Badges were shown but no guns were pulled, he said.
“We can always learn from things,” Edmonson told the state Senate Committee on Judiciary B.
Afterward, Edmonson said video of the incident will be used as a training tool to remind officers that cameras are everywhere.
The committee watched a tape, which shows Sidney Newman and Ferdinand Hunt standing and sitting against a wall in the 700 block of Conti Street after the Krewe of Bacchus parade. Several white men dressed in regular clothes, later identified as troopers, walk up to the teens, grab them and throw them to the ground. The incident breaks up when Hunt’s mother, who is a New Orleans police officer, comes upon the scene and questions the officers. The tape contains no audio.
At issue is whether the troopers used excessive force and racially profiled the two teenagers.
State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, asked what precipitated the initial contact.
Edmonson said the officers approached the teens to ask their ages because of New Orleans’ curfew ordinance affecting minors. Neither of the teens was young enough for the curfew to apply.
“It’s a regrettable situation,” LaFleur said, adding that he does not want the incident to interfere with State Police’s presence in the city.
Troopers help with security during major events, such as Mardi Gras or the Super Bowl.
The committee held a hearing on the confrontation a few weeks ago in New Orleans. During the hearing, Newman’s mother, Hazel, complained the officers crossed the line and used excessive force against someone who was breaking no laws. At Tuesday’s meeting, only State Police appeared.
Edmonson said he asked the FBI to review the confrontation and noted that no one has filed a complaint with State Police. He said an attorney intervened when State Police tried to interview the grandmother of one of the teens involved. He said he watched the 58-second incident many times. At first, Edmonson said, he found the encounter unsettling. He said he then considered the totality of the incident.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, offered several points.
He said he hopes the incident becomes an educational moment. “It’s hard for me to kind of stomach what happened. I understand there are two sides to every story. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard the other side of the story,” Morrell said.
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