New Orleans PD to review officer's UOF shown in video

The department is investigating an officer's use of force on a woman while breaking up a fight during a festival

Emily Lane
NOLA Media Group, New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Police Department’s investigative unit that probes uses of force on the public by NOPD officers is looking into the takedown of a woman who was handcuffed over the weekend as officers broke up a fight during French Quarter Festival, NOPD said Monday (April 15).

A video posted Saturday on Facebook shows what appears to be a white-shirted NOPD officer twice throwing a woman to the ground before other officers help him handcuff her near the intersection of North Peters and Bienville streets. The woman appears to hit the white-shirted officer during the struggle.

The New Orleans Advocate, which first reported on the video and internal investigation, identified the white-shirted officer as newly promoted 8th District Commander Octavio Baldassaro. Two law enforcement sources who were not authorized to speak confirmed Baldassaro is the white-shirted officer shown in the video.

Baldassaro received scratches to his left arm while trying to separate two women and his uniform was torn, one of the sources said. The woman he is seen apprehending in the video refused medical treatment.

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NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson late last month moved Baldassaro from second-in-command in the First District, which polices Mid-City, Bayou St. John and Treme, to the visible post leading the 8th District, which polices the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, Central Business District and parts of the Warehouse District.

NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham said the Force Investigation Team, a unit within the Public Integrity Bureau, was “immediately notified of the incident,” after it occurred, and responded to the scene. Federal consent decree monitors overseeing a mandate in place since 2013 to remedy unconstitutional policing practices were notified, as was the Office of the Independent Police Monitor.

The Force Investigation Team "is conducting a thorough investigation into the incident in its entirety,” Cunningham said.

Superintendent Ferguson also opened a separate and formal disciplinary investigation into the actions of Baldassaro.

“I want our community to know we are taking this incident very seriously and you can be confident the NOPD is committed to conducting a fair and impartial investigation,” Superintendent Ferguson said in a statement Monday night. “Please understand these investigations take time, but that we will continue to be transparent throughout the process.”

Two women, ages 21 and 26, were arrested on a charge of disturbing the peace, NOPD said. The 21-year-old was additionally booked on a second count of disturbing the peace, and on charges of resisting an officer, battery of a police officer and tampering.

Since posted on Saturday, the video has had 48,000 views and 1,300 shares, along with more than 550 comments.

Bonycle Sokunbi, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Independent Police Monitor, confirmed the taxpayer-funded watchdog organization is monitoring NOPD’s internal probe.

“The review of this incident must address if the high-ranking officer involved in this incident used the ‘minimum amount of force that the objectively reasonable officer would use in light of the circumstances to effectively bring an incident or person under control,'" said Sokunbi in a Monday press release that cites NOPD policy.

Update: This story was updated to include a statement from the Independent Police Monitor, as well as the news that Superintendent Ferguson had opened a separate investigation into the use of force.


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