A New Orleans Police Department officer has been placed on desk duty after an arrested man claimed he was sexually assaulted during a drug bust Tuesday night in the Upper 9th Ward.
The NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau and Special Victims Section are jointly investigating the allegation, which came to light after the 28-year-old man lodged a complaint with Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies at the jail.
The man’s defense attorney did not return a request for comment Thursday.
A police union official said he hopes footage from body-worn cameras will allow investigators to quickly clear the accused officer.
The New Orleans Advocate is not naming the drug suspect because he is alleging that he was sexually assaulted. Police have not released the name of the officer involved, citing “an ongoing sensitive investigation involving drug distribution.”
The incident began after a cop in an unmarked vehicle spotted the man and an associate involved in what appeared to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction in the 4300 block of Dauphine Street about 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to an arrest report.
Two other officers stopped the men’s Nissan Altima near North Claiborne Avenue and Lesseps Street. Police said in an arrest report that they saw one man “reach into the front of his waistband area” as they approached the car.
They ordered the man out of the vehicle, according to the report, and patted him down for weapons. During the patdown, police allege, the officer felt a “large bulge in the crotch area.”
Sgt. Eric Gillard had arrived on the scene by this point. He authorized the arresting officer, according to the arrest report, to “remove the contraband” by reaching inside the suspect’s pants.
Police wrote that the officer went inside the pants with his hands but stayed outside of the man’s underwear and removed “a large clear bag.” Inside the bag, police said, they found six bags of heroin, 16 pieces of crack cocaine, two Viagra pills and 33 pills of Tramadol, a painkiller. He also had $459, according to police.
The suspect and the man with him were both placed under arrest. Police said that after the pair were placed in the back of a police car, they used a handcuff key already in their possession to try to escape.
The suspect made the sexual assault allegation after he was transferred to the Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail. Deputies are required to refer arrestees making claims of sexual assault to a hospital for examination.
Donovan Livaccari, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, said he hopes the officer who has been accused by the suspect will be returned to patrol duty soon. He said he believed the Police Department was “quick to the draw” in placing the officer behind a desk.
“The department overreacts sometimes,” Livaccari said. “Especially in this case, this whole incident allegedly occurred in front of the officer’s supervisor and several other officers, besides being on body-worn cameras.”
The man who accused the officer was booked on counts of escape, possession of heroin and possession of cocaine. A judge set his bail at $25,000. He remained in jail Thursday.