Lafayette police officer failed to turn on body cam five times before unrecorded 'tussle'




  • In US
  • 2022-05-26 01:00:25Z
  • By The Daily Advertiser

Lafayette Police Officer Jacob Desormeaux was working an off-duty shift at a 24-hour eatery when a man walked in with a cup, which was against the restaurant's policy.

The man walked out but returned sometime later, still holding a cup. Desormeaux told the man he wasn't allowed to bring in the outside drink. The man kept walking, drained the cup's contents and put it on a table.

Desormeaux grabbed the man, "tussled" with him, placed him in handcuffs and later let him go, according to a shift level investigation.

Before that night in November 2020, Desormeaux had received corrective discipline five times for violating the department's body-worn camera policy, according to a disciplinary letter.

He was suspended for 20 days without pay, a discipline he initially appealed to the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board in April 2021. He later dropped that appeal a year later. It never went before the board for a hearing.

The Daily Advertiser requested the records that would have been presented at that hearing including shift level investigations.

The officer, who had been with the department for two years at that point, was disciplined for failing to turn on his body-worn camera or write a report about the incident and for violating the professional conduct and responsibility order.

A complaint alleging use of force was not sustained.

Lafayette Police Wednesday, Sept.
Lafayette Police Wednesday, Sept.  

What happened on Nov. 29, 2020?

Desormeaux was working off-duty at the restaurant in the early morning hours of Nov. 29. He normally worked four-hour shifts at the eatery every Saturday he was off, he told a shift-level investigator.

That night, a man walked in with a group of friends at about 2:30 a.m. The staff asked Desormeaux to keep an eye on the group because the staff was afraid they wouldn't pay their bill.

The man walked in with a cup. Desormeaux said he told him he couldn't have it in the restaurant. The man walked outside but when he returned he still had a cup. Desormeaux again told him he couldn't have it.

The man "shoves it down and then slams the cup on the table," Desormeaux told a shift-level investigator. Desormeaux then told the man he needed to walk outside.

Desormeaux grabbed the man by the arm and the man said in his complaint to Lafayette Police he "naturally responded by extending my arms toward him to free myself."

Desormeaux "tussles" with the man to get him outside, where the man's friends followed. Desormeaux said they were telling the man to "chill" but that he put the man in handcuffs because he was the only officer.

The man said in his complaint that the officer "placed the cuffs so tight that it bruised and left scratch marks on my wrist."

Desormeaux told the investigator he didn't put the man against the wall or put him on the ground. He said the man didn't complain about injuries at the time.

"I didn't want to throw no strikes," he said. "I come out here to respect everybody like I wanna be treated and I don't have a reason to go there and cuss everybody out or yell at anybody."

Desormeaux said he checked to see if the man had any warrants out for his arrest. When none were found, he let him. He said the restaurant never specifically complained about the man nor asked for him to be removed.

In an October 2020 performance evaluation, a supervisor wrote Desormeaux "needs to learn to speak to the public."

"He is quick to place individuals into handcuffs before getting the facts," the supervisor wrote. "I have seen Officer Desormeaux when the scene is calm agitate the individuals which requires de-escalation by fellow officers or myself.

Desormeaux never activated his body-worn camera despite department policy that it be activated when interacting with citizens. He also said his camera was knocked off his vest while he was trying to remove the man from the restaurant.

"It just happened so fast," Desormeaux said. "It's not an excuse."

He never documented the interaction even though policy states officers must. He told the investigator he thought of the incident as "more of an escort."

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The shift-level investigator counseled Desormeaux telling him "it's not a police officer's job to enforce house rules."

"We go there to prevent crime and to prevent things from happening but if there is a criminal violation then we have to take action," the investigator said. "You're not there to enforce house rules."

The investigator said he was able to obtain video footage from the restaurant but it was too loud to hear anything that was said.

The man filed a complaint on Dec. 1, 2020, alleging use of force and unprofessional conduct.

"This officer was very rude and showed a lack of compassion," the man wrote in his statement.

What were the findings of the investigation?

The shift level investigation found Desormeaux had violated two policies - the department's body-worn camera and its professional conduct and responsibilities policies.

"As a police officer, it is crucial that your actions portray sound judgment and good decision making, which reflect positively upon the reputation and integrity of the Lafayette Police Department at all times," former Chief Thomas Glover wrote in Desormeaux's discipline letter.

Desormeaux had previously been disciplined five times that year-May, August, September, November and December 2020 for violating the body-worn camera policy, according to the letter. In one instance, Desormeaux failed to record an interaction with someone who had reported a crime.

He was suspended for 20 days.

Contact Ashley White at adwhite@theadvertiser.com or on Twitter @AshleyyDi

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Lafayette Police officer suspended after failing to record 'tussle'

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