THE INVESTIGATORS: Man launches excessive force lawsuit following alleged violent traffic stop in Baker

THE INVESTIGATORS: Man launches excessive force lawsuit following alleged violent traffic stop

BAKER, La. (WAFB) - A lawsuit against the City of Baker and a detective employed by the Baker Police Department says a traffic stop turned violent when a high-ranking officer allegedly slammed a man into the side of a vehicle, tossed him into the backseat, then smashed the door on the man’s foot.

Before that though, the man, Cedric Polk, says the detective came in hot, using explicit language and even once motioning for his taser while ordering Polk to put his hands behind his back.

THE INVESTIGATORS: Man launches excessive force lawsuit following alleged violent traffic stop

What started as a simple traffic stop in broad daylight in a Baker neighborhood quickly went off the rails, according to Polk’s attorney, Jill Craft.

“What initiated all of it was the fact that my client was lawfully driving his car in a quote, ‘high-crime neighborhood.’ In short, nothing initiated this," said Craft.

According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Polk, after driving through the intersection of Weston Avenue and Barrington Drive on Aug. 24, 2018, Polk noticed a black, unmarked car with flashing blue lights behind him. Polk got out of his car and approached the unmarked vehicle to ask why he was being stopped, when the detective hopped out and advised Polk to stand behind his vehicle, the lawsuit says.

Craft told WAFB’s Scottie Hunter her client was treated inhumanely at the hands of Baker Police Detective Bryan Holiday.

“He was treated like a criminal and he was treated like an animal. He’s a member of the public who was abiding by the laws and there was no reason to stop him in the first place,” Craft added.

Polk was pulled over around 2:30 in the afternoon on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018 at the intersection of Barrington Drive and Weston Avenue. According to the police report, Officer Holiday says Polk ran the stop sign and that when he was pulled over, he became aggressive. The report alleges Polk jumped out of the car and began cursing at the officer. Craft calls those claims a lie and says it was in fact the officer who was out of line, beginning with the initial stop.

“If you don’t have the right pull me over, let alone take me into questioning and custody, you sure as hell don’t have the right to keep me in the back of your car,” Craft said.

From that point, the lawsuit alleges the situation escalated.

“Lose the attitude,” the detective told Polk at one point, the lawsuit states.

“I’ll get them [in reference to [Polk’s] driver license/registration] when I’m f**king ready for them,” the detective also said, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit goes further, stating when Polk asked the detective not to speak to him in an aggressive manner, the detective motioned for his taser and ordered Polk put his hands behind his back before placing him in handcuffs.

The detective then “inexplicably threatened and cursed at [Polk], stating that [Polk] was ‘very f**king disrespectful and had a bad attitude,’ violently approached him, balled up his fist as to hit him, and violently slammed [Polk] against the unmarked vehicle by the collar of his shirt and neck, causing [Polk’s] shoes to fly off. [The detective] aggressively dragged [Polk] against the vehicle into back of his unmarked vehicle, purposefully slamming the vehicle’s door against [Polk’s] foot,” the lawsuit states.

During the ordeal, Polk’s wife sat in the vehicle.

“The use of force under all circumstances must be reasonable,” said Craft. “This clearly, as we’ve alleged, is an unreasonable use of force.”

Attorney Jill Craft is representing Cedric Polk.
Attorney Jill Craft is representing Cedric Polk. (Source: WAFB)

Another Baker Police Department officer later arrived and told Polk he’d been stopped for having “ran through the stop sign at the corner of Barrington and Weston,” and that the license plate on the vehicle was illegal, the lawsuit states. Polk disputes both of those statements.

The officer released Polk without citing or ticketing him. Polk later filed a formal internal affairs compliant against Officer Holiday with the Baker Police Department.

“If this can happen to someone who has experience with the laws of this state, imagine what’s happening to people who don’t know any better,” said Craft.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Craft why it was so important to bring a case like this forward.

“You have to catch these types of situations because it’s like a cancer,” Craft said. “If you’ve got a cancer cell in your body, it’s going to do nothing but multiply and take over, so when there’s a cancer or a bad situation or somebody pushes the envelope beyond that which is appropriate, if you don’t cut it out, excise it, and take it out, then it becomes a bigger problem for that department.”

WAFB submitted a public records request to the Baker Police Department to obtain any video, written reports, and emails that reference the traffic stop. The city declined to do so, citing the ongoing legal proceedings and saying the city attorney, Ken Fabre, advised them not to honor the request.

Read the full response from the city below:

“ln response to your request, the Baker City Police Department has been served with a lawsuit pertaining to the matter contained in your request and we have been advised not to release any information until it comes through the regular discovery process after an attorney has been assigned.”

Craft questions why the city refuses to hand over the public records and says it makes her wonder why it appears the city is trying to prevent the public from seeing them.

“That’s ridiculous,” Craft said. “I get it, they got a lawsuit, but so what? That is a public record, period, end of story. This is a public record. You’re entitled to a public record and they don’t have an excuse.”

Public records laws in the State of Louisiana provide certain exemptions that allow entities to refuse to hand over requested documents, however, Craft says an ongoing civil lawsuit does not qualify as one of those exemptions. Furthermore, in the official response, the law requires the entity to provide the exact exemption and statute to support their refusal to hand over records. The City of Baker did not provide such language in their response to WAFB.

The fact that her client was not charged with anything or issued a ticket and now that it appears the City of Baker is fighting to keep those documents hidden from the public, Craft says she’s even more interested now to see exactly what the dash cam video WAFB requested reveals.

“I mean, if there’s nothing to hide, why are you hiding it? It is our only way as members of the public that we can truly check and balance what our public officials are doing on our dime and on our watch,” Craft added.

WAFB has requested their legal team with Gray TV to get involved. Attorneys have since reached out to the city for the requested documents. The City of Baker has not turned over those records at this time.

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