University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DOJ Investigation of Ville Platte Police Department and Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office PN-LA-0003
Docket / Court docket unknown ( No Court )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On August 26, 2015, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was opening an investigation into the Ville Platte Police Department (VPPD) and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) for their detention techniques. The DOJ also looked into how VPPD and EPSO trained and ... read more >
On August 26, 2015, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was opening an investigation into the Ville Platte Police Department (VPPD) and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) for their detention techniques. The DOJ also looked into how VPPD and EPSO trained and supervised their officials to prevent unlawful seizures.

The investigation lasted for over a year and the findings were released on December 19, 2016. The Special Litigation Section in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that VPPD and EPSO were engaging in practices that were unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, the DOJ found that the "investigative holds" used by VPPD and EPSO were unconstitutional because individuals who were arrested were placed in holding cells without probable cause. Sometimes these detainees were in holding cells for days and were denied the chance to contact family or friends and their ability to access food and personal items was limited.

In addition to the unlawful investigative holds, the DOJ also noted the lack of training, recordkeeping, and oversight regarding VPPD and EPSO policies. According to the investigation, the VPPD and EPSO policies also eroded community trust in law enforcement. Therefore, the investigation concluded with recommendations to address these issues and reform EPSO and VPPD practices. They were required to implement policies banning investigative holds, provide more thorough training, collect and analyze data for detentions, and engage in community outreach activities to rebuild community support. The DOJ reaffirmed its continuing collaboration with EPSO and VPPD and noted that they can take legal action if either agency decides to eschew cooperation to address the problems identified in the investigation.

After a year and a half of negotiations, on June 4, 2018, DOJ entered into separate, but similar settlements with both the VPPD and the EPSO. In the agreements, both agencies promised to end their practice of using "investigative holds" to detain people without probable cause they had committed a crime, not make investigatory stops without reasonable suspicion, not conduct interrogations that violated Miranda v. Arizona, and not book people into jail without a warrant for their arrest. To ensure compliance with these basic constitutional requirements, the agencies also promised to implement new training, documentation, and supervision systems and be subject to monitoring the DOJ. The agreements were set to terminate when the agencies reached substantial compliance, but noted that such compliance was expected to take three years, which ran out in the summer of 2021. They allowed DOJ to enforce their provisions federal court; however as of September 2021, it does not appear that any such action has been filed.

It appears that the case is now closed, though it is possible that the agencies are still coming into compliance with the settlements.

Amelia Huckins - 02/10/2017
Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 09/08/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Conditions of confinement
Confinement/isolation
Excessive force
Failure to train
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Record-keeping
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Causes of Action 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)
Defendant(s) Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office
Ville Platte Police Department
Plaintiff Description U.S. Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Filed 08/26/2015
Case Ongoing Unknown
Case Listing PN-LA-0004 : DOJ Investigation of Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office (No Court)
Additional Resources
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  Review of the Use of Monitors in Civil Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees Involving State and Local Government Entities
U.S. Department of Justice
Date: 9/13/2021
By: Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assoc. AG Vanita Gupta (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Policing the Police: The Impact of "Pattern-or-Practice" Investigations on Crime
https://www.nber.org/papers/w27324
Date: June 2020
By: Tanaya Devi, Roland G. Fryer Jr (Harvard Faculty)
[ Detail ]

  Data examining the Department of Justice's civil rights investigations of local and state police departments
Marshall Project
Date: Jan. 17, 2017
By: Tom Meagher (Marshall Project)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Civil Rights Division’s Pattern and Practice Police Reform Work: 1994-Present
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  An Interactive Guide to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reforms
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Date: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
not recorded
04/21/2015
Press Release
PN-LA-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
not recorded
12/19/2016
Findings Report
PN-LA-0003-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
not recorded
05/29/2018
Settlement Agreement
PN-LA-0003-0003.pdf | Detail
not recorded
05/31/2021
Settlement Agreement Regarding the Ville Platte Police Department
PN-LA-0003-0004.pdf | Detail
show all people docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gore, John M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-LA-0003-0003 | PN-LA-0003-0004
Gunston, Emily A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-LA-0003-0003 | PN-LA-0003-0004
Hart, Charles W. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-LA-0003-0003 | PN-LA-0003-0004
Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-LA-0003-0003 | PN-LA-0003-0004
Defendant's Lawyers Vidrine, Jonathan C. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PN-LA-0003-0003 | PN-LA-0003-0004

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