U.S. Justice Department to hold meeting in Ville Platte

The U.S. Department of Justice will hold a community meeting in Ville Platte Monday involving investigations into the local law enforcement agencies. (Photo: Alex_Schmidt / File photo)

The U.S. Justice Department will conduct a town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at St. John Baptist Church, 824 W. Hickory St. in Ville Platte regarding investigations of the Ville Platte Police Department and Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The justice department started the investigations in April, after allegations surfaced that officers from both departments use “investigative holds” to conduct unlawful detainments and seizures, according to a Justice Department press release. Investigative holds are used to detain people without formally arresting them, usually for questioning.

Neither Evangeline Parish Sheriff Eddie Soileau nor Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue responded to requests for comment Thursday afternoon.

“All of us who work in law enforcement should be focused on due process every day,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley of the Western District of Louisiana said in April. “Each citizen deserves to be treated with respect and in accordance with the Constitution. We will continue to work with all of our local partners to ensure that arrests and detentions are proper and legal, with the goal of having safeguards in place to make sure that similar violations do not occur in the future.”

Representatives with both the Justice Department and the Lafayette office of U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley did not respond Thursday afternoon to requests for comment.

Last month, a Ville Platte police officer was arrested for allegedly forcing women to pose for revealing pictures before he showed the pictures to other officers.

Larry Fontenot was charged with three counts of malfeasance in office, extortion, and video voyeurism. Fontenot allegedly threatened two women with a DWI charge if they did not do what he said.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of federally-protected rights, according to the justice department’s website. The act also allows the department to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation.

The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. is the investigating agency

Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Justice Department by phone at 1-877-218-5528.

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