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Policing Expert Slams Use Of Force Against Handcuffed Black Man As One Of 'Most Abusive' He's Ever Seen

Policing Expert Slams Use Of Force Against Handcuffed Black Man As One Of 'Most Abusive' He's Ever Seen
Baton Rouge NAACP Branch Broadcast/YouTube

One of the nation's leading experts on police use of force told the Hammond City Council of Louisianna on Tuesday that a video showing white police officers brutally subduing a handcuffed Black man was “one of the most abusive uses of force" he has ever investigated.

The incident took place on December 6, 2017, at the police department's booking center.

The detained suspect in the video was Kentdrick Ratliff, a Black man who was allegedly arrested for parking over a sidewalk.

According to a police report, he was arrested after officers searched his vehicle and found a pill bottle containing 2 grams of marijuana, 2 milligrams of Xanax, and a non-narcotic medication for shingles.

In the "disturbing" footage, Ratliff was seen being wrestled into submission onto a desk by the two officers. He was then tased while the other officer repeatedly punched him in the face.

The incident occurred after Ratliff allegedly reached for an unsecured pill bottle that was on a desk beside him.

A number of other officers entered the room where the violent booking continued. One officer also kicked Ratliff in the groin and another repeatedly stomped on his head. Another officer stood with his tactical boot on Ratliff's neck as another officer kneeled on him.

You can watch excerpts from the video included in a news report, below.

Warning: excessive use of force.

August 19,

The Louisianna Illuminator revealed the officer punching Ratliff in the face was Police Chief Edwin Bergeron, who was a sergeant at the time.

Councilmembers revisited calling on Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto to fire Bergeron. The FBI's 2017 investigation of the incident involving Bergeron cleared him of the charges, but that was before the footage was made public.

In September 2020, Panepinto informed the public of the FBI's renewed interest in the case.

Said the Mayor:

“It was investigated. It’s being reinvestigated, actually, by the FBI. We met with NAACP locals. We had the police chief come in and answer questions himself.”

On Tuesday, the city council heard a summary of findings from the case they pursued 16 months ago in which the Hammond Police Department’s internal affairs department and Panepinto failed to hold the officers seen in the video accountable.

Seth Stoughton, an attorney and former police officer who teaches at the University of South Carolina School of Law, was brought on to the case, and he presented his findings at the council meetings.

Stoughton is a specialist in police procedure and criminal law who most recently testified as a prosecution expert in the 2021 trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Officer who was convicted for the murder of George Floyd.

Of the 10 uses of force against Ratliff, Stoughton said only two were reasonable in light of the circumstances. However, he said the remaining eight uses of force were “unreasonable and excessive,” with up to four “egregiously unreasonable and excessive” actions that could constitute criminal acts.

But he stated the worst was towards the end of the footage when Officer Craig Dunn stomped Ratliff's face five times as he lay on his side with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

Said Stoughton:

"This is egregiously unreasonable. It is among the most abusive uses of force I’ve seen in reviewing I can’t even tell you how many cases.”

Stoughton went into detail when describing Dunn's actions in the 158-page investigative report.

"Dunn’s stomping on or kicking Mr. Ratliff in the face five times while he was handcuffed and laying on his side, fully under the control of officers, ranks among the most abusive and unnecessary uses of force that I have ever reviewed.”

According to Ratliff's medical records following the incident, he sustained "a facial laceration, missing teeth, blood on his face and a wound to his back."

Stoughton noted that written reports from officers involved in the incident involving Ratliff omitted most of their use of force actions.

The key findings prompted several council members to propose to amend the meeting’s agenda to add a resolution requesting that Mayor Panepinto fire the police chief.

The motion required a unanimous vote but was opposed by council members Carlee Gonzales and Steven Leon, who both voted against a similar resolution the council approved in 2020 before the footage was made available.

Leon explained his opposition by saying:

“When you do something like this, you’re leaving the citizenship entirely out of the loop."

Council members indicated they plan to revisit the resolution again in the future.