LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Picture this…you’re moving down the road one hour, and the next, you’re being threatened to be arrested by police.
What one Lafayette police officer did is raising questions about excessive policing, and the incident was all caught on the officer’s body camera.
The incident began when Threvia West, a Lafayette doctor, hired a moving company to move her to a new residence.
When she was handed the bill after the job was done, the price was four times what she was quoted, as the job took longer than expected for the moving company to complete.
“I tell them that is not our agreement, and that is not what I’m going to pay,” Dr. West said.
When she voiced her concerns over the higher-than-expected bill and offered to pay more than half, the moving company called 911 and told police they wanted to file charges for theft of services.
When officers arrived, they called a supervisor to ask him how to handle the situation.
“If she refuses to pay, write her a summons,” the supervisor told the officers in the body camera footage.
Instead, however, the officer threatened Dr. West with arrest if she didn’t pay.
“Bottom line is, if you don’t pay them for the services tonight, you will be arrested,” the officer told her.
“Why are you yelling?” West asked the officer in the body camera footage.
“Because you’re not listening!” the officer replied. “So you’re under arrest.”
In the video, West responds, saying she is listening. The officer tells her she isn’t. He then proceeds to tell her she’s under arrest and attempts to put her in handcuffs.
“He and his partner grabs my arms to arrest me unless I pay, and then I said I will do this because I did not want to be arrested,” West told News 10.
Although West’s moving estimate was only $290, West then agreed to pay the full $1,280 bill to avoid being arrested.
“If this isn’t excessive policing, I don’t know what is,” attorney Ron Haley said, adding that what happened in body camera footage shouldn’t have happened.
Haley says the disagreement over the moving bill is a civil case, not a criminal one and should have been handled in small claims court, not with a 911 call.
“When you call 911, what is said? What is the emergency? You tell me, what is the emergency in this case?” Haley asked. “Where is the danger that required multiple law enforcement officials from the Lafayette Police Department to come on the scene and address a civil debt? That is ridiculous.”
Haley says it was unlawful for the officer to play judge and jury, demanding Dr. West to pay the $1,280 and threatening her with arrest.
He says it was excessive policing.
“This is the same reason we look at the Trayford Pellerin case. Folks in the community, in particular black folks in the Lafayette community, are not trusting of the police,” Haley said.
The Lafayette Police Department along with the district attorney’s office did investigate this incident.
They concluded that Dr. West’s refusal to pay the higher-than-agreed-upon moving bill could be considered a theft of services.
Police Chief Glover concluded Dr. West’s complaint was unfounded.
Attorney Ron Haley says is now calling on the Lafayette Police Department to train their officers to handle civil cases and believes this case should be reinvestigated.