Sunday, April 09, 2006

More Allegations Against New Orleans Cops:New Orleans Police Officers Beat On The Wife of One of Their Own...

Jonie Pratt, wife of Desmond Pratt, a 10-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department,right, talks with a reporter along with her mother-in-law Dulcie Scott in New Orleans Wednesday, April 5, 2006. Scott, said Pratt was injured by police officers when they pulled her over claiming she ran a stop sign. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer Thu Apr 6, 6:35 AM ET
NEW ORLEANS - The city's police department is again investigating allegations of brutality by some of its own, and this time the claims involve the wife of a fellow officer.
Jonie Pratt, who is black, nursed a swollen forehead, a black eye and a brace on her fractured wrist on Wednesday. The injuries were inflicted by three white officers after a traffic stop, said Dulcie Scott, her mother-in-law.
"It was terrifying," said Scott, who said she tried to stop the brutality by telling officers that Pratt's husband, Desmond, is a 10-year veteran of the police department. Pratt's sister, Nancy Parker, has been a member of the force for three years.
Superintendent Warren J. Rille said in a statement Wednesday the department is investigating the allegations and the officers have been reassigned. Their names were not released.
The probe comes less than a week after two former officers — both white — were indicted on felony charges in the French Quarter beating of a black retired teacher, violence caught on video by an Associated Press news crew covering the hurricane's aftermath in October.
The local NAACP is calling for a federal investigation. "This kind of thing has been going on for a long time," said Donates King, president of the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP. "We need it stopped."
The FBI is investigating to see if Pratt's civil rights were violated, said spokeswoman Sheila Throne.
Pratt was charged with flight from an officer, battery, resisting arrest, running a stop sign and making an illegal turn.
"It's my understanding that one of the officers spoke the word `black' during the incident," said Lt. Simon Hargrove, president of the Black Organization of Police. "Why would a person do that if race wasn't involved?"
The Pratts refused to discuss the matter, but Scott said Pratt was returning from visiting her sick father in Baton Rouge early Tuesday when police said she ran a stop sign about two blocks from her house. The woman drove to her house in a middle-class area of the city before pulling over.
"I saw an officer pull Jonie out of the car by her hair," said Scott, who was baby-sitting her grandchildren at the couple's house. "He was swearing at her and pounding her into the car. I said, `Stop that, that's Officer Pratt's wife.'"
Scott said the officer twisted Pratt's arms behind her and sprayed Mace in her face. She said two more white officers arrived and the three shoved the 5-foot-2 Pratt to the ground and knelt on her back, and an officer kicked her in the head.
The white officers refused to believe that Pratt, a schoolteacher on leave since Katrina, lived in the house she claimed was hers, Scott said.
"It's a nice area, and I think they meant a black family wouldn't live there," Scott said.
Pratt was released from the handcuffs after several black officers showed up, Scott said. "It turned into this real black-white situation between the police," she said. "All the white officers on one side, the black officers on the other."
The police department had a checkered history before Katrina and the storm brought new troubles. Officers were accused of abandoning their posts, stealing cars and looting stores, while the two officers seen on tape beating the retired teacher were fired.
Two FBI agents seen helping to restrain the man were cleared of wrongdoing Wednesday, the bureau said.

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