The wife of a police officer charged with domestic abuse battery last month objected to letting the New Orleans Police Department handle the case after the alleged August attack, saying she couldn’t trust the department to conduct an unbiased investigation because her husband’s brother is one of the NOPD’s top supervisors, according to two people familiar with the probe.
“She didn’t really want them to investigate it,” Ursula Price, who works under Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson, said in a recent interview about the case. “She didn’t think they would be fair.”
New Orleans officers responded to a call at the New Orleans East home of Officer Marcel Albert on Aug. 13. His colleagues did not arrest him that night, and the case was eventually handed over to the department’s Public Integrity Bureau. More than eight months later, Orleans Parish prosecutors on April 23 charged him with domestic battery involving strangulation, a felony crime.
Marcel Albert, whose brother, Darryl Albert, is a deputy superintendent, has pleaded not guilty to choking his wife. He’s free on $2,500 bail but is on emergency suspension from the NOPD without pay.
“We are confident that a full and complete investigation will exonerate him of any criminal wrongdoing,” said Bruce Whittaker, his attorney.
Marcel Albert’s wife declined to comment.
Police offered few details of the case when he was charged and suspended. A recently released police report shows Albert’s wife accused him of choking her and also squeezing her ankles and wrists, prompting her to tell her sons to “call the police.”
“Mrs. Albert did not lose consciousness,” the report says.
Police responded shortly after midnight to a report of a fight at the couple’s house on Tricia Court.
Lt. Michael Mims and two officers went to the home and interviewed Albert and his wife separately.
The officer’s wife said she came home about 11:30 p.m. from a study group and was asked by her husband where she had been and if she had been drinking. She told police they began to argue and that Albert began to choke her while saying, “I’m not doing you anything.”
“Mrs. Albert appeared to be under the influence of an unknown alcoholic beverage, and she stated that her husband took the keys and would not let her leave,” Mims wrote in his report. “She pointed at Mr. Albert and demanded to know if any of the (officers) knew who her husband was.”
The report says she declined medical treatment after initially saying she needed an ambulance. “She then began to laugh and she started choking herself and stated, ‘This is how he choked me,’ ” Mims wrote, adding that “she went from laughter to anger.”
Albert told his colleagues his wife had tried to kick him in the groin, which he blocked with his hands. He denied hitting or choking his wife and said he took the keys because he didn’t want her driving drunk, the report says.
Albert’s wife was photographed by a crime lab technician at the scene, but Officer Garry Flot, a police spokesman, said there were no signs of battery on either party.
“Two people were claiming battery on each other,” he said. “In cases like that, we don’t necessarily arrest somebody, whether it’s a police officer or regular citizens in the street. Every case is different.”
A person familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Albert’s wife later sought medical attention and had injuries from strangulation documented. The source confirmed she was unhappy the NOPD was handling the investigation.
Asked about the department’s policy for handling potential conflicts of interest during investigations, Flot said the Public Integrity Bureau “handles all officer-involved investigations.” He said the PIB case involving Albert is ongoing.
Hutson, the police monitor, said her office flagged the case, but she declined to go into specifics about her concerns because the investigation remains open.
She said NOPD does not have “enough guidance in place for what you do with complainants who have these type of conflicts,” referring to Albert’s brother’s high-ranking position. “We’re trying to do something with that. We need to see what it looks like when there are conflicts and try and make some rules about that.”
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