Police Department: Gretna Police Department
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, along with Venable LLP, sued three Gretna Police Department officers for the unjust arrest of a Black woman in September 2020. The lawsuit asserts that the officers violated Hope Davis’s Fourth Amendment rights by arresting and detaining her without probable cause. The suit also claims that Ms. Davis’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech was violated when she was arrested in retaliation for bringing attention to the city’s failure to enforce social distancing due to COVID-19.
The incident occurred at Gretna’s municipal court while Ms. Davis was waiting in line to enter. When she noticed that social distancing guidelines were not being enforced both inside and outside the courthouse, she began conversing with others near her about it. A police officer providing security at the courthouse entrance overheard Ms. Davis and demanded that she leave.
When Ms. Davis, who had done nothing wrong, refused to leave, the officer handcuffed and arrested her. Although Ms. Davis did not resist arrest, the officer tightened the handcuffs excessively, causing her severe physical pain, and refused to loosen them. The officer then arranged for Ms. Davis to be transported to Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, where she subsequently was taken and for several hours detained in a holding cell actively leaking raw sewage and denied a place to sit or use a toilet.
The decision to arrest Ms. Davis for simply speaking to others and then leave her in a filthy holding cell is yet another example of the constant harassment and criminalization of Black women by law enforcement, often for everyday activities for which others are seldom targeted.
The defendants in the case are:
- Arthur Fernandez, officer of the Gretna Police Department
- Milton Crosby, officer of the Gretna Police Department
- Russell Blanchard, officer of the Gretna Police Department