Kenner Police apologizes for airport incident involving Puerto Rican man
KENNER (WVUE) - Humberto Marchand thought flying into New Orleans just before midnight on May 9 would go as smoothly as it has been for years.
Marchand is a 1990 Loyola University New Orleans graduate flying in from Puerto Rico to move his son out of his apartment after the end of his junior year at the same school.
Things turned south when an attendant at the Hertz rental car desk would not allow him to have his rental car, despite paying in advance in April. Video from his iPhone shows the attendant telling Marchand he needed a passport since he was a native of Puerto Rico - not realizing that Puerto Ricans, because they are U.S. citizens, often don’t travel with passports throughout mainland U.S. because it’s not required.
Hertz later said in a statement the attendant was not following company policy and a Puerto Rican driver’s license is just as valid as any other U.S. driver’s license.
The attendant calls the police because Marchand would not leave the area, and a Kenner Police officer shows up minutes later. The officer’s body camera footage shows the officer acting indifferent to Marchand’s situation and asking him to leave the area for causing a disturbance.
“I do apologize. I don’t think that’s the way we want to be portrayed and he shouldn’t have been spoken to in that manner,” police chief Keith Conley said.
Conley says Kenner Police’s Internal Affairs division has started an investigation into the officer’s conduct. Meanwhile, Marchand says he is working on making a formal complaint against the officer.
At the time of the incident, he hoped the police would’ve helped sort out the misunderstanding, let the attendant know his ID was a valid U.S. ID, and verify that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
“It certainly did not put the Kenner Police Department in a good light. That’s not the way we like to be portrayed in the public, so we are going to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Conley said.
Dillard University Political Analyst Robert Collins, PH.D. says he was shocked seeing how the Hertz worker handled the situation and how the officer didn’t act as an arbitrator.
“Once again our educational system has failed us. We have folks that don’t understand that someone who is born in Puerto Rico is actually a U.S. citizen,” Collins said. “A U.S. citizen at a domestic airport doing business with a domestic company, should not have to and does not have to produce a passport.”
Conley says the officer was at the scene to respond to a disturbance call. In a statement, Kenner Police says the officer was only there to, “mitigate the disagreement” between Marchand and the Hertz attendant.
“By nature, we don’t get involved in civil matters. We don’t interpret policies. We don’t get involved in that stuff,” Conley said.
The chief is also glad the officer’s body camera was operational during the incident. Initially, Marchand claimed to overhear the Kenner officer threatening to call “immigration services” if Marchand did not leave the area. After FOX 8 obtained the footage, the officer was not heard saying anything to Marchand pertaining to immigration services, ICE or border patrol.
“This is why we have the availability of body cam footage, because it tells the proof,” Conley said. “While we are relieved the officer didn’t threaten the gentleman with taking any kind of action with border patrol or any other federal services, his actions were a little concerning - a lot concerning.”
And while Kenner Police moves forward with their investigation and Hertz says they are reminding workers that Puerto Ricans don’t need to show a passport if they have their ID, Collins says the interest surrounding Marchand’s incident could be harmful.
“This is an international airport. New Orleans is an international city,” Collins said. “This is not an image that we need coming from the airport where you have a U.S. citizen who is treated badly, treated rudely, who is being required to produce documents you cannot force to lawfully produce.”
In a statement, Hertz said Marchand will be refunded in full and that the attendant’s actions violated company policy:
“Hertz accepts Puerto Rican driver’s licenses from our customers renting in the U.S. without requiring a valid passport. We sincerely regret that our policy was not followed and have apologized to Mr. Marchand and refunded his rental. We are reinforcing our policies with employees to ensure that they are understood and followed consistently across our locations.”
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