SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana’s Justice Lab announced that it has secured $500,000 for victims of racist policing and their families including a man who levied claims against the Shreveport Police Department.

A release from the ACLU of Louisiana said the Justice Lab was founded in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Justice Lab was created to hold law enforcement accountable for violent and racially discriminatory policing practices and police violence against people of color in Louisiana.

“We are extremely proud of the steadfastness and success of the Justice Lab team over the past three years,” said Alanah Odoms, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “Our work is not finished. We will continue to hold state agencies accountable for police violence and misconduct. All Louisiana residents deserve to feel safe—not targeted—in their encounters with law enforcement.”

A suit against defendants including the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office was the 11th lawsuit brough against a law enforcement agency by the Justice Lab. It was brought on behalf of Frances Tapps, a resident of Kenner, Louisiana who went into premature labor following an unconstitutional seizure by a JPSO deputy at her home.

“Ms. Tapps has dealt with what no mother or pregnant person should have to deal with,” said Nora Ahmed, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “While a settlement can never make someone whole, it is a step in the right direction. Pattern or practice claims against police departments are extraordinarily difficult to overcome, particularly in the Fifth Circuit, where we practice law. Developing good case law has long been a key goal of Justice Lab, and we were able to secure that outcome in Ms. Tapps’ case.”

In Shreveport, the Justice Lab reached a settlement with SPD on behalf of Montrell Jackson, and another unnamed officer, Chief Wayne Smith, SPD records custodian Michael Dunn and another SPD records custodian whose name was also redacted.

The suit alleged that on December 15, 2020, Shreveport Police officers used unnecessary and excessive force against Brandon Kennedy, a 37-year-old Black man. The suit claimed that after one of the officers overheard Mr. Kennedy speaking to another person in a convenience store about the Black Lives Matter movement and his own negative experiences with officers of the Shreveport Police Department.

Kennedy’s attorney’s claimed that officers attecked Kennedy as a violent response to his constitutionally protected speech. They also searched him before transporting him against his will to a hospital for a “mental evaluation,” where he was kept overnight. In so doing, the officers severely injured Mr. Kennedy, who today continues to suffer from resulting physical pain in his neck and back, as well as emotional scarring. 

Kennedy was not, and never has been, charged with a crime related to the incident. 

The ACLU said this case confirms what research across the country and this state has shown: that police gratuitously use unnecessary, excessive, and violent force against unarmed non-resisting Black men. They call Kennedy’s case “particularly appalling” because he was brutalized for speaking out against racial injustice.

On December 22, 2022, Kennedy and the defendants reached an agreement to settle their claims. In doing so, the defendants admitted no liability.

To date, the Justice Lab has secured victories for clients in the following eight parishes: Caddo (Kennedy), DeSoto (Hinson), East Feliciana (HarvestonWhite),  Jefferson (DecquirSuggs), Lafourche (Jackson), Orleans (Celestine), Morehouse (Olive), and Tangipahoa (Watkins).