Police in New Orleans have been under tremendous pressure and stretched very thin since Hurricane Katrina. In video that has been widely distributed and played since it was captured last Saturday, 64-year-old Robert Davis says police beat him for no reason.
The police say he was drunk and he resisted arrest. But is this standard operating procedure for the New Orleans Police Department?
Frank DeSalvo, who represents the three New Orleans police officers who have been charged and now suspended without pay after the beating, joined MSNBC's Monica Crowley on Wednesday's 'Scarborough Country' to discuss the charges.
To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
MONICA CROWLEY: All right, We have all seen this tape, and the police now say that they were just following procedure, but based on what we see in this tape, is that really any kind of police procedure?
FRANK DESALVO, ATTORNEY FOR NEW ORLEANS POLICE OFFICERS: It's absolutely police procedure.
You had a man who was stumbling down the street so intoxicated, that he actually stumbled into a police horse. The police officers involved went to talk to him and tried to get him to say where he was living, if he had any friends in the area who could come pick him up. And instead of being cooperative with them, he told them to go F. themselves and pushed himself to go away.
At that point, they decided they needed to bring him over to a wall, cuff him and frisk him. When they went to cuff him, he decided that he didn't want to get cuffed. He was just not going to do it. They put his left arm behind him. They got him cuffed. They couldn't pull the right. He put his hands in his waistband, and he was just resisting.
One police officer was striking him, trying to strike between the shoulders and the neck, because that's where the pressure point is to bring the arm around. He did hit him in the head. He did hit him in the shoulder. He did hit him in the back, but this is a kinetic thing, in motion, and he got hit in the head. He got hit everywhere, but he didn't get hit in the face, and he didn't get hit anywhere where he was bleeding.
An FBI agent, actually two FBI agents who were walking by saw the incident and came to their aid because this guy was resisting, and if you watch him being taken down, that was an FBI agent doing it, who brought him down, doing his job. The man fell down, hit his face. And that's where the blood came from.
DESALVO: He continued to resist.
CROWLEY: All right, Mr. DeSalvo, let's say everything you are saying is true.
DESALVO: It is.
CROWLEY: And let's just assume for the sake of argument that Mr. Davis were drunk and that he did, in fact, resist arrest. Did the police officers really need to use this much force to subdue him?
DESALVO: Well, the answer to that is, yes, of course, it's true, because if he had allowed them to cuff him immediately, they wouldn't have had to use any force.
If after the first blow to his shoulder, his back, he allowed them to cuff him, then they wouldn't have had to hit him again. And carry that through. The important factor there is, after he was cuffed, there was no more physical activity at all.
CROWLEY: Well, I want to go now to a clip of Mr. Davis' attorney, and he had something to say in response to your comments today. I want you to take a listen. Here it is.
--Begin video clip--JOSEPH BRUNO, ATTORNEY FOR ROBERT DAVIS: Frank, hey, man, Frank says they didn't hit him in the face. Look at the tape. The guy is pounding on his cheek, which is where the fractures are, and he's got fractures around the orbit of the eye. I got to say, denial is not what we need right now. What we need right now is, OK, you know, this happened. We are going to deal with it. We are going to accept responsibility, and we are going to move on. That's what we need. --End video clip--
CROWLEY: Frank DeSalvo, your reaction to what was just said.
DESALVO: He is trying to make some money. That's what he does.
In fact, if you look behind me, if they focus on that big building, there's a building he owns because of the money he makes doing plaintiff work. That's just malarkey. You know, this guy was drunk. He was belligerent. He was resisting arrest, and the police officers not only have the authority to do it; they had the duty not to let this guy stumble down the street drunk and be a danger to himself and be a danger to the citizenry.
CROWLEY: ... Even if he were drunk and belligerent, did he really deserve all of this?
DESALVO: All he had to do was take his right hand and let them cuff him, and that ended. When he finally got cuffed, that was over. Had he done what he was supposed to do, none of this would have happened.
CROWLEY: All right. Now, there is some discrepancy between the two stories here. The police say that Mr. Davis was, in fact, drunk and resisting arrest. Mr. Davis himself has said, no, he was sober. He has not had a drink in 25 years. Was there why was there no Breathalyzer test administered here?
DESALVO: I don't need a Breathalyzer test to prove he was drunk. I can prove it. I can prove it.
CROWLEY: Well, how are the police going to prove that he was drunk at this particular moment in time? Are you telling me there were a lot of witnesses that can testify to that fact?
DESALVO: I am telling you that I can prove it. I can prove that he was drunk. He had been drunk for a while. And he has been drunk in the past.
And people have been talking about the stress. If he hadn't had a drink in 25 years, maybe it was the stress of Katrina that caused him to fall off the wagon, but he was plastered. Now, he was on alcohol and he was probably on drugs.
CROWLEY: Why no Breathalyzer?
DESALVO: Because there's no provision in the law to do it. The police didn't have the authority to have him do a Breathalyzer. That's something that comes with driving while intoxicated. And the only way you can force that or a blood test in Louisiana is if, in a driving while intoxicated case, there's severe bodily injury or death.
Short of that, there's no way of ordering it. That's the way the law is written.
CROWLEY: So, now, Mr. DeSalvo ... you mentioned that perhaps Mr. Davis perhaps was drinking because of the stress of Hurricane Katrina. We have heard a lot about police officers also being under enormous stress since that hurricane hit that city. So are we looking at perhaps a Katrina defense, both for Mr. Davis and perhaps even for the cops?
DESALVO: Absolutely not. There's no Katrina defense here. The defense here is that they did what they were supposed to do, how they were supposed to do it, and that the problems in this case became were the result of Mr. Davis acting the fool that evening.