Law enforcement exists to serve and protect. Its purpose is in the title — to enforce the law. However, there will always be crooked cops who use their badges to exploit their power, believing their uniforms give them the authority to do dirty deeds. Such was the case with Louisiana Officer Larry Paul Fontenot and others from the Ville Platte Police Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office.
$100,000 was recently awarded to three plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit after the offensive actions of Officer Fontenot and the department for which he served. The man allegedly forced two females into being photographed topless for him during a roadside encounter in August 2015. The plaintiffs, two women and a man, claim Fontenot threatened the women with pepper sprays stating he would issues a drunk driving citation if they didn’t comply. He later showed off the photos to fellow officers, passing them around as trophies.
The three individuals were headed home from a bar in the early morning of August 15, 2015. On their way home, the car got a flat tire, which they pulled over to fix. Fontenot pulled in behind them and began making lewd comments at the women, taking pictures of their backsides and eventually forcing them to expose themselves. The women thought the officer was joking at first, and initially ignored him. However, Fontenot threatened he would call for Louisiana State Police back up if they did not comply with the request and arrest one of them for a DWI, verbally coercing them into it. The officer later followed the women to a local Shell Station, known as the Y-Not Stop, where he showed his photos to other officers on duty.
The three locals sued the city, Police Chief Neal Lartigue and Fontenot. Fontenot was immediately arrested on three criminal counts of malfeasance in office, extortion and video voyeurism after the filing on Friday, August 18. He allegedly gave up his badge right away and “never returned to work after that incident,” said Chief Lartigue. The officer was questioned by EPSO Investigators about this actions on Friday, August 28, while investigators set his bond at $100,000.
The lawsuit states Fontenot would often photograph and exploit the women he pulled over, later sharing his trophies with his colleagues. One of the women in this case initially discovered her pictures in the possession of another officer, which caused her to file a complaint with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office. In the course of discovery, The Justice Department investigation also found that the Ville Platte Police Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office often used unconstitutional “investigative holds” to arrest and detain hundreds of locals for criminal investigations. While being jailed, the department would exploit these individuals by strip searching and holding them in cells without basic accommodations, such as beds, toilets or shows for three days or longer without being able to make calls to loved ones or contest their arrests. The routine inhumane practices of the department could affect its ability to remain in operation.