WATCH: New Orleans Police Officer Fired For ‘Unauthorized’ Force on 16-Year-Old Girl

July 1, 2015

Newly released video from inside the city’s Juvenile Intake Division shows a veteran New Orleans police officer using what authorities have called “unauthorized force” on a 16-year-old girl.

Officer Terrance Saulny was fired from the department last month following a Public Integrity Bureau investigation that concluded he used “unauthorized force” against the girl as she stood in a holding cell last September. The department’s investigation also determined Saulny was dishonest with investigators when he denied making vulgar comments toward the girl.

Saulny’s attorney, Ted Alpaugh, said his client plans to appeal the department’s decision.

The video, released by the Independent Police Monitor’s Office after a public records request from | The Times-Picayune, shows Saulny entering the girl’s holding cell after she is seen kicking the cell door repeatedly.

While the video does not include audio, it appears to show Saulny giving the girl directives before he shoves her against the wall. He then appears to strike her multiple times with a pair of four-point restraints while taking her to the ground. Another officer then enters the cell and assists with placing handcuffs on the girl, who is face down on the cell floor.

The girl’s injuries were minor, investigation records show. But Michael Hall, an attorney for her family, said she needed one eye surgery because of Saulny’s actions. Hall said another eye surgery could be required for the girl, who is currently in a juvenile detention center in Shreveport.

NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the FBI reviewed evidence along with the police department’s PIB unit, and did not find enough probable cause to send the case to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges.

“I would hope the District Attorney’s office would take a long hard look at it,” Hall said of the video footage. “If they haven’t been notified, I would hope at this point they would be.”

Conflicting accounts

Pages of interview notes obtained through a public records request reveal, at times, conflicting accounts of how officers handled the combative girl – who her mother said suffers from mental illness and was not taking her medications.

From her arrest early that day in connection with a French Quarter purse snatching, the girl repeatedly cursed at officers during questioning, tried to kick out the windows of the arresting officer’s police car, and refused to comply with police directives, according to the records.

The officers’ memories were hazy when asked by investigators whether they directed any profanity – or made any threats – toward the girl, records show.

But a review of body camera footage from the arresting officer told a different story, according to investigation records. NOPD denied a public records request for that footage, citing exceptions in the law that the department said shield records disclosing safety procedures.

The footage from the body-worn camera, however, is summarized in investigation records. After the girl refuses to answer Saulny’s questions inside the juvenile lock-up, he is heard on video saying “she was going to get her mind right in the mother f—-r,” records show.

Later, as the girl is hurling a vulgarity while being booked, “a male’s voice was heard mentioning pimp slapping (the girl) while (Saulny) told him to come on and do it,” the record states.

Saulny told investigators that he entered the girl’s cell, with shackles in hand, to stop her from kicking the door and to prevent her from hurting herself or kicking open the cell door. He said she refused to comply with his directives, and that he pushed her out of fear for his safety.

“He stated he felt threatened, so he just pushed her to the left,” the record shows. “He attempted to grab her arm and tried to put shackles on her and when she resisted by pulling away he tried grabbing her again and her arms went up and the shackles accidentally hit one of her arms.”

Police called EMS and the girl’s mother following the incident. The girl’s mother told investigators she originally believed her daughter fell, and that she would have told them to transport her daughter to the hospital had she known the full sequence of events.

Saulny notified his supervisor immediately following the incident. The supervisor reviewed video footage, the record shows, and concluded that Saulny “may have exhibited a level of force that could be constituted as exceeding the necessary tactics taught by the New Orleans Police Academy instructors to contain (the girl) during her episode of non-compliance.”

Saulny’s supervisor, Sgt. Hudson Cutno, continued to state that department policy directs officers to use reasonable judgment when facing a potential use-of-force situation.

“Any evaluation of reasonableness must allow for the fact that officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation,” Cutno wrote, “with limited information and in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving.”

Training and cameras

Police Monitor Susan Hutson’s office said it spent more than 60 hours reviewing video footage and monitoring the investigation.

“It is integral to the OIPM that we provide a level of transparency to the city of New Orleans so that people will know what is happening in their police department,” said Deputy Monitor Susan Levine. “In this NOPD investigation of Officer Saulny, the OIPM worked with the department to ensure that the investigation and disciplinary process was fair, timely and accurate.”

Following its review, Hutson’s office called for NOPD to equip all officers in the Youth Study Center with active body-worn cameras, and to offer training in “verbal de-escalation” and treatment toward juveniles for all officers assigned to the juvenile unit.

Gamble, the NOPD’s spokesman, said the department continues to evaluate whether additional training should be provided. On body cameras, Gamble said the department has not ruled out the police monitor’s recommendation. But, he said, the immediate priority is to equip new recruits slated for field duty with cameras.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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