News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


No excuse for behavior of New Orleans police officers

Times are hard for everyone in New Orleans in the wake of devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Many are without homes. Some have been separated from family and loved ones for more than six weeks.

The situation is especially difficult for police officers who were responsible for restoring and, now, maintaining order in the Crescent City. Many are working 12- to 14-hour days.

But there is no excuse for the behavior of New Orleans police officers who pummeled 64-year-old Robert Davis on Conti Street in the French Quarter on Saturday. A portion of the incident was videotaped, including officers repeatedly punching Mr. Davis in the head and later kicking him as he, while handcuffed, tried to roll over onto his back away from a pool of his own blood.

Another officer later assaulted an Associated Press Television News producer who helped capture the incident on tape.

While a camera cannot tell the entire story, and many questions remain unanswered as to why the officers confronted Mr. Davis (who is charged with public intoxication, battery on a police officer and resisting arrest), there is no doubt that the officers involved used excessive force when subduing him.

Officers Lance Schilling, Robert Evangelist and S.M. Smith have been charged with battery. They pleaded not guilty and were released Monday on bond. They have been suspended from duty without pay, and a trial is set for January.

Local and federal authorities have launched investigations into the incident, including a civil rights investigation.

Mr. Davis, who is black, suffered fractures in his cheek and near his eye. He said Tuesday he holds no grudge with the Police Department and feels the officers involved, who are white, were not motivated by race.

The investigation into the incident needs to be swift yet thorough.

Yes, times are hard for police officers in New Orleans. But that is no excuse for the behavior exhibited by a few of them Saturday night in the French Quarter.

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