The sheriff of Louisiana’s Iberia Parish regularly encouraged detectives to enforce their own version of the law through violence and intimidation of Black American residents — according to the testimony of an ex-narcotics detective Tuesday.
The trial is underway for disgraced Iberia Parish Sheriff James Ackal, who faces civil rights charges stemming from an investigation of abuse of power and countless cover-ups, The Advocate reports.
Ackal is accused of creating a culture of abuse where officers rarely feared discipline from the man who sat top of the chain of command. But now the tables are turning against him.
Several former narcotics detectives poured into a Shreveport courtroom Tuesday to testify against their former boss — many of them admitting that abuse and excessive use of force was a regular part of their jobs. In fact, it was encouraged.
Former narcotics team member James Comeaux was one of several witnesses/participants put on the stand. Comeaux, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to beating inmates and then lying about it, said Ackal and his narcotics team had great disdain for the communities they patrolled and the residents who lived in them.
The former detective also testified to roaming Iberia Parish following a shooting and roughing up anyone they saw on the streets. Comeaux noted that some drunken off-duty narcotics agents had unnecessarily beaten up two Black men — which they called n–gger knockin’ — and were barely punished for it.
“They were animals,” he said of the narcotics team’s view of Black residents. “And they needed to be treated like animals.”
“They knew if they got out there, they were going to get stopped and get dealt with,” Comeaux added. “[Ackal] told us he didn’t want anyone on the streets.”
According to The Advocate, Comeaux’s damning testimony bolstered the prosecution’s key claim that not only did Ackal direct and/or approve the physical violence, but he was also physically present for the beatings at times.
The former detective said the sheriff stood by and watched as he and two other deputies abused an inmate following a contraband sweep at the jail in 2011. The inmate, who later filed a civil rights lawsuit over the abuse, was beaten in the jail’s chapel where there were no security cameras.
Comeaux later lied in a deposition, saying the inmate was injured during a fight with another man, the paper reports. When the ex-detective told Ackal about the attempted cover-up, he reportedly responded, “F— that n—–. He got in a fight.”
Testimony in the trial, which is expected to last all week, will continue Wednesday in Shreveport, according to The Advocate. The damning case has shed light on the festering racial tensions in the community where Black residents said they’ve long suffered violence at the hands of police officers.
“It’s always been a problem within Iberia Parish,” said local activist Khadijah Rashad. “It’s gotten worse under Sheriff Ackal.”
Per Acadiana’s KLFY, Ackal — who refuses to step down from his post as sheriff — also faces several charges surrounding the mistreatment of prisoners.
His defense lawyers argued he had no involvement in the violence against Black residents and inmates.