Justice Lab, the ACLU of Louisiana’s litigation and advocacy campaign against racist policing, has filed four lawsuits challenging police misconduct to date, with more than 30 additional cases under investigation for prospective litigation later this year. The team also launched an interactive online dashboard, which maps the disproportionate use of police violence in Black and Brown communities around the state. Since the Justice Lab initiative began last summer, the ACLU has received more than 200 complaints of police misconduct from Louisiana residents, ranging from verbal abuse, to racial profiling, to use of excessive and lethal force.
“It’s been almost a year since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms. “This was a deeply traumatic incident, but it wasn’t anything new. Since last May, more victims have come forward accusing Derek Chauvin, the police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck, of using similar, deadly force on them. This is what we’re trying to put an end to. Through Justice Lab, we are working to hold police officers accountable for their violent behavior—rather than encourage it—in an effort to dismantle the era of legally-sanctioned police violence once and for all. Together, we can continue the fight for Black lives and build a future where no child has to grow up in fear of being killed by the police.”
Over the past eight months, the ACLU of Louisiana has refined and expanded Justice Lab in response to community feedback, incorporating non-litigation support and partnering with directly-impacted communities to combat police violence at the grassroots level. The new Justice Lab website holds a wealth of resources, including an interactive heat map of police violence across Louisiana, which confirms that parishes in the state show a pattern of racial disparity in police killings—one that disproportionately affects Black people.
The site also includes summaries of cases being filed, an overview of the initiative’s storytelling effort, and additional resources to help empower directly-impacted families and communities in taking on the fight to combat racist policing. ACLU has partnered with the Louisiana Victims Outreach Program (LAVO), a program that seeks to address the needs of victims of violent crime as they navigate the criminal legal system. Through the partnership, LAVO will provide an array of free services that aim to inform victims about the criminal legal system, facilitate healing on an individual level, and build a supportive community of victims, advocates, and service providers.
The cases Justice Lab has filed include:
- Sampy v. Rabb et al.: American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP and Kuchler Polk Weiner, LLC, are suing police officers on behalf of Mr. Raynaldo Sampy—a Black man who was asleep and pulled from his parked truck, repeatedly thrown onto the pavement face first, and pinned down with officers’ knees on his neck, back, and legs. This brutal encounter, involving seven police officers, was in response to an erroneous report that Mr. Sampy had driven into an ice cooler outside of a convenience store and damaged it—an impossibility, given that a steel guard rail protected the cooler from being struck by vehicles. Read more about the case here.
- Johnson v. Turner et al.: The ACLU of Louisiana, along with Dorsey & Whitney LLP, are suing New Orleans Harbor Police officers for the unjust and racist arrest of Shauna Johnson, a Black Uber driver, as she pulled over to pick up her Uber passengers. According to the lawsuit, the officer arrested her without probable cause and in retaliation for exercising her freedom of speech. Read more about the case here.
- Beroid v. LaFleur et al.: The ACLU of Louisiana, alongside Foley Hoag LLP, are suing officers of the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office for the unlawful use of a Taser on a Black man last March. The officers entered his parents’ home without permission, and, in a matter of mere seconds, proceeded to Taser Mr. Beroid in front of his family members, despite the fact that he posed no threat to the officers and he was not attempting to flee. Read more about the case here.
- Stevenson v. Gautreaux: The ACLU of Louisiana and the UCI Irvine Law School Civil Rights Litigation Clinic have also filed a brief asking the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a district court’s ruling in favor of East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies, who were granted qualified immunity for killing an unarmed man experiencing a mental health crisis in 2016. Deputies fired 21 shots into Travis Stevenson’s vehicle, killing him, despite the fact that Stevenson posed no immediate threat to the officers. Read more about the case here.
The ACLU of Louisiana is encouraging community members to visit the new Justice Lab site, learn more about the effort, and spread the word. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of police misconduct, contact Justice Lab. Filing a complaint is simple and confidential.