NEW ORLEANS—A settlement has been reached on behalf of ACLU of Louisiana client, Mr. Cedric Otkins, a teacher who was stopped and had his car searched by St. Charles Parish Sheriff officers at a public park in Destrehan, LA after one of the officers claimed to smell cannabis emitting from the vehicle. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to Mr. Otkins as part of the settlement agreement. 

On the night of July 1, 2020, Mr. Otkins stopped at East Bank Bridge Park to use the restroom. As he attempted to leave the park in his vehicle, he was stopped by Sergeant Jack Gilboy, who, unbeknownst to Mr. Otkins at the time, claimed to smell cannabis coming from Mr. Otkins’ sealed vehicle. Mr. Otkins was held by Sgt. Gilboy while he called for two additional officers and a K-9 unit to assess said smell. 

Since the night of July 1, 2020, when Mr. Otkins was stopped by Sergeant Jack Gilboy, Mr. Otkins’ quality of life has declined. Mr. Otkins now has sleepless nights, increased blood pressure, stress and anxiety, and avoids St. Charles Parish. He no longer feels safe around law enforcement officers. 

“What happened to Mr. Otkins and its continued impacts are shameful. Acknowledging harm, which here was done in the form of a settlement, is an important step towards justice. When we started the Justice Lab in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we knew it would be an uphill battle,” said Nora Ahmed, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “This settlement victory shows the fight is always worthy. This work would not be possible without survivors of police injustice, like Mr. Otkins, coming forward and taking on the grueling work that litigation presents.  Holding police accountable for the everyday unconstitutional indignities they subject people of color to is a step toward creating more just policing for all people.”

Otkins v. Gilboy is the second jury trial for the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab initiative, which seeks to challenge racially discriminatory policing practices and combat police violence against people of color through intensive litigation. As of late 2023, the Justice Lab has secured half a million dollars in awards for victims of racist policing in Louisiana.