- Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office; and
- Denham Springs Police Department.
The Social Justice Legal Foundation and the ACLU of Louisiana are representing Alexander Clark in a lawsuit against the Sheriff of Livingston Parish, several of his officers, the Chief of Police of Denham Springs, several of his officers, and the City of Denham Springs. The complaint seeks to address (1) unconstitutional policing against Mr. Clark—including illegal seizure, search, excessive force, and battery; (2) the racial targeting of the single predominately Black neighborhood in the hyper-segregated Livingston Parish; and (3) the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Denham Springs Police Department’s conspiracy to overpolice based on racial animus.
Livingston Parish is hyper-segregated. Virtually the entire Black community is clustered in a single highly concentrated neighborhood within the city of Denham Springs, while the remainder of the Parish is predominantly white. This neighborhood was the site of the all-Black West Livingston High School before the Parish closed the school as it was forced to integrate under court order, and it became the Black cultural hub in Livingston Parish.
Within this community, which law enforcement officers call “3A” or “the quarter,” are thriving black churches, community centers, and other institutions. Yet this neighborhood is routinely overpoliced by both the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Denham Springs Police Department.
Such overpolicing of the Black community results in Livingston Parish having one of the highest overrepresentations of Black people incarcerated in the entire state—while only 7% of the population identify as Black, Black individuals represent between 20-25% of the incarcerated population.
This overpolicing takes place in the context of not only widespread segregation, but also a history of racial violence. The KKK was headquarted in the Parish for nearly a decade from 1975-1984, as one example, and new branches of the KKK have emerged in the Parish in recent years.
On the night of May 24, 2021, Mr. Clark—a 67-year-old man who is a pillar of the community with no prior history of arrests nor drug use—stopped for gas on his way home after a day of sheetrocking for a friend. His night took a turn when LPSO Officer Hotard pulled him over and detained him, rather than letting him leave the gas station and head home.
Instead of giving Mr. Clark a ticket or explaining why he was pulled over, Officer Hotard, who was soon joined by LPSO Officer Bowden, detained Mr. Clark on the back of his truck for over 20 minutes. During that time, the officers repeatedly searched Mr. Clark’s truck, even though Mr. Clark told them they couldn’t do so “without a warrant.” While searching the truck, the officers dug through Mr. Clark’s belongings, threw items around, and repeatedly asked “where’s the crack at?”
Then, the officers searched Mr. Clark—reaching into his pockets, searching his socks and shoes, and sticking their hands into the waistband of his pants—while continually making demeaning comments. After finding nothing during any of these searches, Officer Bowden took a Quick Connect compressor attachment from Mr. Clark’s tools in the back of his truck. Office Bowden claimed he found the pipe Mr. Clark uses to smoke crack.
After the officers’ multiple searches uncovered nothing illegal and no illegal activity, the complaint alleges that the officers grabbed Mr. Clark’s arms, pulled them upward and behind him, before pushing him into the bed of his truck and then forcing him downwards to arrest him despite no evidence of wrongdoing and no resistance.
During this interaction, the officers tore tendons and fractured bones in Mr. Clark’s right arm and hand. The officers also injured Mr. Clark’s hip. As a result, Mr. Clark needed surgeries on both his hand and hip, and Mr. Clark lost out on months of sheetrocking income due to his injuries, surgeries, anxiety, and recovery time.
Both Mr. Clark and his lawyers at the Social Justice Legal Foundation and ACLU of Louisiana have repeatedly attempted to file complaints and obtain records about the incident, over the course of many months. However, neither police department responded to the inquiries. This is consistent with recent reports of LPSO’s failure to investigate and adequately respond to complaints made against its officers.
What happened to Mr. Clark is just one example of LPSO and DSPD’s practice of intentionally targeting this Black neighborhood for overpolicing with immunity. Black residents and visitors in the highly segregated neighborhood are frequently seized and subjected to similar mistreatment. LPSO has also established unnecessary vehicular checkpoints in this neighborhood and installed a camera to monitor the Neighborhood’s Black residents and visitors.
LPSO and DSPD have both faced other 1983 civil rights lawsuits ranging from unreasonable search and seizure to excessive force and deliberate indifference of medical needs. Both agencies also provide incomplete data to the Police Scorecard and other reporting mechanisms aimed at police accountability.
This complaint seeks to address both the unconstitutional policing and injuries perpetrated against Mr. Clark, and the department’s longstanding and clear practice of targeting the sole Black community in the Parish based on racial animus, supported by a failure to supervise, investigate, and discipline its officers.
The defendants in this case are:
- Jean Hotard, Officer of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office
- Calvin Taylor Bowden, Officer of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office
- Jason Ard, Sheriff of Livingston Parish
- Sydney McCullough, Officer of the Denham Springs Police Department
- Johns Doe 1-2, Officers of the Denham Springs Police Department
- Chief J. Shannon Womack, Chief of Police of the Denham Springs Police Department
- The City of Denham Springs