VILLE PLATTE — A sexual-misconduct
lawsuit involving a Ville Platte police officer has been
According to court documents
from the Associated Press, two women accused Officer Larry Paul
Fontenot of threatening to pepper-spray and arrest them if they did
not show him their breasts. Also, according to the suit, the officer
circulated the photos around the department.
encounter between the defendant and the plaintiffs took place in
August 2015. Fontenot quit his job after one of the women filed a
complaint. He was arrested, charged with extortion and video
voyeurism, and will face those criminal charges in court March 6.
The Justice Department has investigated both the Evangeline
Parish Sheriff's Office and Ville Platte Police Department,
concluding that both departments have violated the constitutional
rights of citizens, according to the Associated
Press. Joy Rabalais represented the city of Ville Platte, and
Andre Toce represented Fontenot.
As this story was published,
terms of the settlement were not finalized.
Two experts from
Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond shared their thoughts on
the outcome of the case.
"I doubt that this case will
stimulate reform," Peter Shrock, an associate professor of
criminal justice at SELU, said in an email interview with the
Louisiana Record. "Louisiana political culture tends to
be protective of authority figures such as police officers."
Shrock read a news report about the case for background, but is
confident the system in Louisiana is protectionist and rife with
"The article indicates that the current case
has been settled, and the matter will probably end there," he
said. "The only thing that I can imagine changing this equation
is if there's a grassroots push for reform (as, for example, through
Shrock couldn't comment on the possibility of
further liability for other officers passing photos around, if that
has been alleged.
"I don't know whether any of the other
officers who looked at and/or passed along the photographs would be
liable for criminal charges," he said.
Shock, citing the
report, said race is a major factor as well as power.
story doesn't say whether the women who were photographed were white
or black," Shrock said. "If they were black, that could
affect the likelihood of a grassroots protest campaign, but also the
likelihood that any pushback from the criminal-justice system will be
"I'm not really familiar with this case or
with this [Police] Department so I'll just answer generally based on
previous experience with such issues," Kenneth Bolton, the
department head and associate professor of criminal justice at SELU,
told the Louisiana Record in an email interview. “Louisiana
has profound community and criminal-justice problems that need a
deep, far-reaching approach to address, and I can't see it beginning
Bolton also agreed the problems of Ville Platte,
though he is not familiar with them specifically, mimic a problem
statewide of corruption.
"Normally, individuals who
disseminate such hateful, exploitive information/images in the
department face policy-oriented penalties within the department that
aren't very serious, those who view such images may be admonished or
required to undergo more training," he said. "Women
officers and/or employees may seek action on the basis of a hostile
workplace for women — I doubt it, but it really depends on the
people who work there and the culture that they have 'loosely agreed'
to abide by. Is someone willing to be ostracized by taking
Bolton made the political connections to corruption
and sexual-misconduct attitudes.
"The mayor and/or community
leaders could get involved and demand action/redress but will likely
only do so if it fits within their political aspirations,"
Bolton said. "Courts are really hands-off recently. With a Trump
Justice Department, I can't see sexual harassment and exploitation
taking center stage. Gender/sex in police departments is a huge issue
and this is but one example of the extent of the problem."
Quigley, a law professor and director of the Law Clinic and the
Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University in New Orleans,
said the alleged incident will have more implications.
story is another example of the deeply illegal conduct of this
officer," he said in an email interview with the Louisiana
Record. "That will certainly bring more litigation and
oversight by people and organizations that believe in upholding the
Quigley thinks others could face new charges
if it is proven the photos were circulated in the department.
all this can be proven in the criminal case, this ex-officer's
illegal activities may provoke criminal charges against other
officers," he said.