NEW ORLEANS – As part of its Justice Lab campaign, the ACLU of Louisiana, alongside Reid Collins & Tsai LLP, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Teliah Perkins, a Black woman from Slidell, Louisiana, against two St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies for violently arresting Ms. Perkins at her own home in response to a minor traffic violation she didn’t commit. During the attack, which was recorded by her child—and first uploaded by Louisiana United International’s Predatory Policing Program—Deputies Kyle Hart and Ryan Moring violently seized Teliah Perkins by the arms and forced her to the ground, pressing her face into the pavement and digging their knees and elbows into her back and legs. Deputy Hart kept Ms. Perkins pinned to the ground and pressed his forearm into her windpipe as she gasped “you’re choking me!”
“Again and again, we’ve watched countless Black people be targeted, abused, and killed by those who have taken an oath to protect and serve us—often as a result of a routine traffic violation or another low-level offense,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms. “This constant and systemic devaluation of Black lives is exhausting and unacceptable. We need Black people to be given the basic right to exist without fear of being brutalized, harassed, or gunned down by the cops. That’s why the ACLU of Louisiana began our Justice Lab initiative—to get to the root of these issues and make systemic changes there.
“Almost a year since we watched George Floyd cry out ‘I can’t breathe’ as he was murdered by police officers, it’s clear that we cannot simply reform the institution of policing, which was built on slavery and Black pain. The horrifying ordeal Ms. Perkins endured at the hands of police is a textbook example of why we need drastic, long-term changes in our approach to public safety, once and for all. Mr. Floyd’s life matters. Ms. Perkins’ life matters. We will do everything we can to turn their stories into action, and we will never stop working to dismantle police violence and impunity in our state.”
On May 5, 2020, Deputies Hart and Moring drove to Ms. Perkins’ residential street in response to an anonymous complaint of someone operating a motorcycle in a dangerous manner. After extended questioning, during which Ms. Perkins assured the deputies that she had not committed any traffic violations, the deputies stormed onto Ms. Perkins’ property and arrested her. Ms. Perkins’ young son recorded the incident on his phone. In an unconstitutional attempt to stop the recording, Deputy Moring blocked the camera’s view of Ms. Perkins, and drew his Taser, pointing it directly at the 14-year-old, who objected: “you can’t Tase a child.” Deputy Moring responded: “watch me.”
Historically, police officers disproportionately target Black people for minor violations, which is what happened to Ms. Perkins. Additionally, Black women are the group most likely to be killed by law enforcement while unarmed.
Following the arrest, Ms. Perkins required emergency room treatment for her injuries and continues to receive physical and occupational therapy. She has had to give up her job as a home care provider because she is in too much pain to perform her duties. And although the traffic citations have been dismissed, she is now being prosecuted for resisting arrest, a baseless, felony charge that arises out of her unlawful arrest and is being used to justify the deputies’ use of excessive force.
“Ms. Perkins is one of too many Black people who endure excessive force by police, only to face criminal charges stemming from that very same incident,” said ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Nora Ahmed. “Law enforcement officers commonly use ‘cover charges,’ such as resisting arrest, to justify their use of unreasonable and excessive force against people of color. As a result, Black people like Ms. Perkins not only suffer from the physical and psychological trauma of police violence, but they must also confront a criminal legal system that views them not as victims, but as criminals, resulting in long-lasting barriers to employment, housing, and education.”
“Ms. Perkins’ experience is a classic example of the pattern of police misconduct we see occurring in St. Tammany parish,” said Belinda Parker Brown, CEO of Louisiana United International, Inc (LUI). “We look forward to continuing to work with the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab in challenging the pattern of ‘Predatory Policing’ in St. Tammany, which LUI is working diligently to identify.”
The Teliah Perkins case is the eleventh lawsuit filed by Justice Lab in ten weeks. The initiative filed six lawsuits against police misconduct in April alone, including one against several Gretna police officers for punching, kicking, and strangling a Black man, Kevin Beauregard, while he was restrained by handcuffs. Alston & Bird LLP is representing Mr. Beauregard alongside ACLU of Louisiana.