A Baton Rouge police officer is under investigation after a video shared to social media on Sunday, Feb. 21, showed a Black child being pinned to the ground in a chokehold.
As footage of the arrest sparked outrage and calls for reforms within the Baton Rouge Police Department, Chief of Police Murphy Paul promised to investigate the matter.
“We’re going to conduct an investigation into the incident and report our findings at the appropriate time,” Paul said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “Until then, we’re asking the community to respect the process that is in place right now so that we can conclude that investigation and present all of the facts that have been known to us,” New Orleans Public Radio reported.
The name of the officer involved in the altercation has not been released and the names of the juveniles who were ultimately arrested, a male and a female both 13 years old, have not been made public.
A 23-second video shared by the 13-year-old boy’s aunt on Sunday shows an officer pinning the boy to the ground with his arm wrapped tightly around the back of the child’s neck.
Bystanders clearly upset by the use of force are heard calling out, “That’s a little boy, get off of him!” and “You’re choking him!”
Officers responded to a disturbance call Sunday afternoon following reports of a fight involving teenagers, some of whom had baseball bats. It was also reported that the fight was between members of two families and that adults were also involved.
Police handled the situation without incident and left the scene, but were called back again 30 minutes later when the conflict sparked once more. The video was taken during the police’s second visit to the scene.
A 13-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy were arrested and charged with resisting arrest. The boy was also charged with battery of an officer and disturbing the police, and remained at a juvenile detention center for several hours before being released to his family.
Ron Haley, the attorney for the family of the boy in the video, accused the officer of using excessive force on the teen.
“If that officer did not have a badge or a uniform on, and was an adult on the ground with a child in that manner, he’d be arrested,” said Haley. “Nowhere should an unarmed 13-year-old, who is not a danger to himself or others, be treated like a grownup.”
He said his client suffered a busted lip, and has been experiencing headaches and difficulty sleeping since the arrest.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has petitioned for the officer’s body camera footage to be released. At the press conference Monday, she said she would not shy away from any issues.
“I assure you that we were thoroughly investigate what has going on here and make sure that transparency is heightened and communication throughout this process,” Broome said.
Haley said the release of the footage may take time because there are multiple juveniles involved.
The officer involved in the altercation has not been placed on leave. Chief Paul said the department will investigate the incident before taking further action.
“The investigation will make sure and determine if our officer was in compliance with his training and his procedures and if we need to change the procedures and training based on a review of the incident,” Paul said.
The Baton Rouge Police Department has faced steady criticism for its treatment of Black men and boys. Three officers were placed on leave after LSU football player Koy Moore claimed he was repeatedly “violated” during a traffic stop last November.
Baton Rouge officers were also involved in the July 2016 killing of Alton Sterling who was shot to death outside of a convince store, where he had been selling homemade CDs.
Last year, BRPD officers kneeled on the upper back of 17-year-old Dillon Cannon during a traffic stop, six weeks after George Floyd’s death.
Rachel Gassert, policy director for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, called for change in the wake of the distressing footage.
“We have footage of BRPD assaulting yet another black child,” Gassert said. “It’s clear we don’t need another review. What we need is accountability and drastic systemic change.”