The practice of putting people "on ice" began so long ago in Evangeline Parish that no one still wearing a badge can recall its origin. But over the years, the so-called investigative holds became as much a part of policing here as pat-downs and parking tickets.
For as long as anyone can remember, the U.S. Justice Department reported recently, anyone walking the streets could be taken into custody for questioning if detectives had the slightest hunch they knew something about a crime — or perhaps knew someone who did. They were jailed indefinitely without probable cause or charges, let alone access to a telephone or an attorney.
The Ville Platte Police Department and Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office conducted more than 900 of these unconstitutional arrests over a single three-year period, federal authorities found. Suspects, witnesses, persons of interest — and their relatives — were strip-searched and detained for days in cells without beds. At least 30 of these cases involved juveniles.
"The willingness of officers in both agencies to arrest and detain individuals who are merely possible witnesses in criminal investigations means that literally anyone in Evangeline Parish or Ville Platte could be arrested and placed 'on hold' at any time," the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division wrote.