After video circulated on social media showing a Baton Rouge police officer restraining a juvenile by placing his arm around the back of the child's neck, the Baton Rouge mayor and police chief said Monday they have petitioned a court to release bodycam footage of the incident.
Officials said they need permission from a judge before releasing the footage because the identities of juveniles are protected under state public records laws.
Video showing part of the incident has already been shared widely on social media after the boy's aunt posted about it Sunday, saying her nephew is 13 years old. Other people are seen watching the encounter while the officer has the juvenile on the ground, apparently pleading with police to stop.
During a press conference Monday afternoon, Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome pledged a quick and transparent investigation, following up on a statement she made late Sunday.
"We have worked tirelessly to close this gap between our police officers and the citizens of our community," she said. "We will not skirt around these issues. I will make sure this is thoroughly investigated."
Baton Rouge police said Monday that the encounter stemmed from multiple complaints about a disturbance involving two families fighting in the area of 13000 block of Goodwood Drive, beyond the end of Goodwood Boulevard east of South Flannery Road. There were both children and parents involved in the dispute, and officers were summoned twice within 30 minutes Sunday afternoon, police said.
One of the calls involved people fighting with baseball bats. But the first time officers responded, they were able to de-escalate the situation without taking anyone into custody, police said.
The boy shown in the video was later arrested on two counts of battery on an officer and one each of disturbing the peace, resisting an officer and interfering with officers. He was released from juvenile detention Sunday evening, according to police. His female cousin was also arrested. She was accused of disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, then released into the custody of her mom without being booked into the detention center.
When asked to describe the alleged battery complaints that landed a child behind bars, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul declined to elaborate amid the ongoing investigation. He said the officer involved has not been placed on administrative leave, which is normal protocol for incidents involving serious injuries or possible serious policy violations.
Baton Rouge attorney Ron Haley, who has been hired to represent the boy, confirmed the two juveniles were cousins but was unable to confirm whether her interaction with police was also shown in the video posted to social media, which shows a girl scuffling with officers and ultimately being handcuffed. He said police had invited the family to view the bodycam footage late Monday afternoon.
Haley said he appreciates the swift response from the mayor and police chief, but he said this will have lasting impacts nonetheless because such interactions can define a young person's relationship with law enforcement now and in the future.
"These negative interactions with young Black kids leave a bad taste," he said. "That leads to further problems and escalated situations down the line. It's basic human psychology."
Haley also questioned whether the department should have more stringent policies defining how officers should interact with juveniles — a point Paul also acknowledged during his remarks Monday.
Paul said Baton Rouge police are open to examining and revaluating some policies and training. In the meantime, he asked for patience from the public while his department investigates the incident.
In an effort to demonstrate that his department takes these issues seriously, Paul described how the city hired a third-party company to investigate another incident involving a juvenile suspect that occurred over the summer and prompted similar outcry after video circulated on social media. The department quickly released bodycam footage showing the officer had placed his knee briefly on the child's back, not his neck. But Paul said Monday that the investigation had recently yielded some recommended policy changes, though he didn't elaborate on the exact recommendations.
That encounter came not long after George Floyd died in Minneapolis, pinned on the ground for eight minutes with an officer's knee in his neck.
The press conference Monday marked the second time in recent weeks that the mayor has waded into local policing issues. She recently responded to reporting from The Advocate and The Marshall Project that revealed the department used police dogs to apprehend fleeing juveniles at an alarming rate, much more often than other agencies. Broome told Paul to not use dogs against juveniles running away unless the situation demanded it.