The U.S. Department of Justice in a report released Monday alleges the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office and the Ville Platte Police Department have for years have been violating the Constitutional rights of of suspects they've placed in jail on "investigative holds" without charging them and without allowing them to talk to family or attorneys.
In one case, Ville Platte Police interrogated a 5-year-old without a parent or guardian present because the child's mother was under an investigative hold. The police also wouldn't allow the mother to call a relative to pick up her children, the report found.
According to a report posted online Monday, the DOJ believes it can work with both agencies to craft a document that solves the problems. If that doesn't happen, the DOJ says it will file suit against the agencies over the practice.
“The violations we found in Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish demonstrate a disturbing pattern of officers overstepping legal boundaries by placing residents in holding cells for days at a time without probable cause," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.
Officials with both agencies say the practice has been used for as long as anyone can remember, the report indicates. Officials with both agencies also acknowledged, after discussions with the DOJ, that they understand the practice is unconstitutional and have taken steps to stop it, the report states.
The investigation also found that both agencies had ina—dequate training and instruction for officers.
"The willingness of officers in both agencies to arrest and detain individuals who are merely possible witnesses in criminal investigations means that literally anyone in Evangeline Parish or Ville Platte could be arrested and placed 'on hold; at any time," the report states.
See the full KATC-TV report here.