A veteran New Orleans police officer was suspended Wednesday after a video uploaded to YouTube showed him idly standing by as four people fought on Canal Street.
Officer Cortez Hankton was suspended without pay while an internal investigation is done, according to the Times-Picayune.
"No one can watch this 2-plus minute film and believe that Officer Hankton did all that he could, including all that he could do physically," said Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
The two females on camera get into a scruffle, pulling on each other's hair. Hankton stands by with his walkie-talkie. Another officer nearby is attempting to separate two males who are fighting as well.
At one point, one of the males walks up and begins punching both females in the face. Hankton pushes the male away several times, but he still manages to land a few punches.
Just then two female police officers arrive and separate the two females in the altercation.
According to Hankton’s attorney, he was waiting for female officers to arrive on the scene to separate the two women involved in the fight.
"That's about the most ridiculous and stupid thing I've ever heard," Serpas responded to the claim that Hankton was waiting for female officers. He said that only 15 to 20 percent of the department's staff is made up of female officers.
"All police officers are trained to break up fights," he added.
Serpas first saw the video on Wednesday morning and the NOPD took swift action against Hankton. The department’s Public Integrity Bureau opened an investigation into the incident.
Hankton is accused of neglecting duty and failure to perform his duties as an officer.
“After seeing what I saw, I wouldn't want that officer to be with me," Serpas said.
Hankton’s attorney Raymond Burkart III argued that if the large, burly man had intervened he might have hurt the women.
"We are incredibly disappointed that the administration is taking a ready, shoot, aim approach to this investigation," said Burkart. "He is in no way a danger or threat to the public."
Hankton, who works in the Recruitment and Applicant Investigation division, has been on the force 20 years. His wife Sherome Hankton is also a police officer. His son Cortez Hankton, Jr. was a wide receiver for the NFL for six years and is now the assistant coach at Dartmouth College.
It is unclear when the Canal Street brawl took place or the extent to which the fighers were injured. It was uploaded to YouTube of Sept. 8.
"We'll get to the bottom of this," Serpas assured. "We apologize to the people of New Orleans that this kind of video shows that sometimes we're not getting it as well as we think we should."
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the incident “troubling.”
"This officer's inaction is immensely troubling to me and well below the standard I expect from officers in our police department,” Landrieu said. “We have zero tolerance for an officer who fails to protect our citizens. I support the chief's decision to act quickly to suspend this officer and launch an investigation into the matter."