Case: DOJ Investigation of Ville Platte Police Department and Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office

No Court

Filed Date: Aug. 26, 2015

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On August 26, 2015, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was opening an investigation into the Ville Platte Police Department (VPPD) and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) for their detention techniques. The DOJ also looked into how VPPD and EPSO trained and supervised their officials to prevent unlawful seizures. The investigation lasted for over a year and the findings were released on December 19, 2016. The Special Litigation Section in the DOJ’s Civil R…

On August 26, 2015, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was opening an investigation into the Ville Platte Police Department (VPPD) and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) for their detention techniques. The DOJ also looked into how VPPD and EPSO trained and supervised their officials to prevent unlawful seizures.

The investigation lasted for over a year and the findings were released on December 19, 2016. The Special Litigation Section in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that VPPD and EPSO were engaging in practices that were unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, the DOJ found that the "investigative holds" used by VPPD and EPSO were unconstitutional because individuals who were arrested were placed in holding cells without probable cause. Sometimes these detainees were in holding cells for days and were denied the chance to contact family or friends and their ability to access food and personal items was limited.

In addition to the unlawful investigative holds, the DOJ also noted the lack of training, recordkeeping, and oversight regarding VPPD and EPSO policies. According to the investigation, the VPPD and EPSO policies also eroded community trust in law enforcement. Therefore, the investigation concluded with recommendations to address these issues and reform EPSO and VPPD practices. They were required to implement policies banning investigative holds, provide more thorough training, collect and analyze data for detentions, and engage in community outreach activities to rebuild community support. The DOJ reaffirmed its continuing collaboration with EPSO and VPPD and noted that they can take legal action if either agency decides to eschew cooperation to address the problems identified in the investigation.

After a year and a half of negotiations, on June 4, 2018, DOJ entered into separate, but similar settlements with both the VPPD and the EPSO. In the agreements, both agencies promised to end their practice of using "investigative holds" to detain people without probable cause they had committed a crime, not make investigatory stops without reasonable suspicion, not conduct interrogations that violated Miranda v. Arizona, and not book people into jail without a warrant for their arrest. To ensure compliance with these basic constitutional requirements, the agencies also promised to implement new training, documentation, and supervision systems and be subject to monitoring the DOJ. The agreements were set to terminate when the agencies reached substantial compliance, but noted that such compliance was expected to take three years, which ran out in the summer of 2021. They allowed DOJ to enforce their provisions federal court; however as of September 2021, it does not appear that any such action has been filed.

It appears that the case is now closed, though it is possible that the agencies are still coming into compliance with the settlements.

Summary Authors

Amelia Huckins (2/10/2017)

Jonah Hudson-Erdman (9/8/2021)

Related Cases

DOJ Investigation of Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office, No Court (2015)

People


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Gunston, Emily A. (District of Columbia)

Hart, Charles W. Jr. (District of Columbia)

Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Gore, John M. (District of Columbia)

Vidrine, Jonathan C. (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Gunston, Emily A. (District of Columbia)

Hart, Charles W. Jr. (District of Columbia)

Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Gore, John M. (District of Columbia)

Vidrine, Jonathan C. (Louisiana)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Press Release

[No case name]

April 21, 2015

April 21, 2015

Press Release

Findings Report

Investigation of the Ville Platte Police Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office

Dec. 19, 2016

Dec. 19, 2016

Findings Letter/Report

Settlement Agreement

United States Department of Justice and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office

May 29, 2018

May 29, 2018

Settlement Agreement

Settlement Agreement Regarding the Ville Platte Police Department

United States Department of Justice and the City of Ville Platte, Louisiana

May 31, 2021

May 31, 2021

Settlement Agreement

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Louisiana

Case Type(s):

Policing

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 26, 2015

Case Ongoing: Unknown

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

U.S. Department of Justice

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Ville Platte Police Department (Ville Platte, Evangeline), City

Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office (Ville Platte, Evangeline), County

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Unreasonable search and seizure

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Issues

General:

Conditions of confinement

Confinement/isolation

Excessive force

Failure to train

Over/Unlawful Detention

Pattern or Practice

Record-keeping

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)