Perhaps one of Acadiana’s most controversial law enforcement agencies has joined the body cam revolution thanks to a $30,000 gift from an unnamed private donor.
According to this report from The Advocate, 99 brand new body-mounted cameras were distributed to the deputies of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office on Thursday — all funded by an anonymous donor who specifically requested the money be used for the purchase of the cam technology.
For the Iberia Sheriff’s Office, this couldn’t have come at a better time. In recent years, Iberia Sheriff’s deputies have increasingly come under fire from the public and civil rights activists, notably for a series of incidents in the predominately black West End community in New Iberia where clashes between police and residents erupted during three of the city’s recent Sugar Cane Festival celebrations. One of those clashes came in 2013 and prompted a federal investigation after a deputy was captured by a cell phone video putting the boots and club to a handcuffed man. The 2013 incident also resulted in a handful of federal civil rights lawsuits being filed against Iberia Sheriff Louis Ackal and several of his deputies. And the agency came under fire again just last year resulting in another federal investigation into the mysterious and questionable death of Victor White III, a young black man who allegedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest — a feat he’s said to have performed while having his hands cuffed and restrained behind his back.
Thursday’s news certainly represents a huge step forward for a sheriff’s office with a long record of poor treatment toward its minority community. But in a way, the good news of this story is largely overshadowed given everything we know about Victor White III’s death — which isn’t much except for a coroner’s report that defies the story given by the deputy who was there when it happened. This story also begs the question: Could a camera have changed the outcome of White’s March 3, 2014, encounter with the Iberia Sheriff’s Office? And is it possible White would be alive today had that $30,000 donation come a year early?