Louisiana’s police under federal investigation for racially motivated attacks
- HOW TO SUPPORT: I know we are all facing unprecedented financial hardships right now. If you are in the position to support my work, I have a patreon, venmo, and a paypal set up. No pressure though, I will keep posting these pieces publicly no matter what – paywalls suck.
- NOTIFICATIONS: You can signup to receive a weekly email with links to my posts.
The Justice Department opened a “pattern-or-practice” investigation into the Louisiana State Police for allegedly engaging in racially discriminatory policing and use of excessive force.
Pattern-or-practice investigations are civil inquiries into the policies and culture of a police department, run by the DOJ’s Civil Rights division. It involves not just the police officers but also community members, victims of police misconduct, and local government leaders. If the police department is found to have engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, the DOJ can enter into a legally binding agreement, signed off on by a federal court, requiring certain reforms with independent oversight.
Louisiana State Police came to attention three years ago for the beating and killing of Ronald Greene. Long-withheld body camera footage showed white officers bearing, stunning, and dragging Greene, an unarmed 49-year-old Black man, after a car chase.
“I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!” Ronald Greene can be heard telling the white troopers as the unarmed man is jolted repeatedly with a stun gun before he even gets out of his car along a dark, rural road.
The 46-minute clip shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face while another can be heard calling him a “stupid motherf——.” Greene wails “I’m sorry!” as another trooper delivers another stun gun shock to his backside and warns, “Look, you’re going to get it again if you don’t put your f——- hands behind your back!” Another trooper can be seen briefly dragging the man facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him…
Instead of rendering aid, the troopers leave the heavyset man unattended, facedown and moaning for more than nine minutes, as they use sanitizer wipes to wash blood off their hands and faces. “I hope this guy ain’t got f—— AIDS,” one of the troopers can be heard saying. After a several-minute stretch in which Greene is not seen on camera, he appears again, limp, unresponsive and bleeding from his head and face. He is then loaded onto an ambulance gurney, his arm cuffed to the bedrail.
Greene was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The officers involved in his death lied about the cause, saying he was killed in a collision with a tree. Prosecutors never brought charges and only one of the six troopers was placed on leave.
Greene’s murder is just one of many use of force incidents with apparent racial motivations:
Most of those beaten in the cases AP found were Black, in keeping with the agency’s own tally that 67% of its uses of force in recent years have targeted Black people — double the percentage of the state’s Black population. AP reporting revealed that a secret panel the state police set up this year to determine whether troopers systematically abused Black motorists was just as secretly shut down, leaving the agency blind to potential misconduct.
The case of another Black man killed by police in Louisiana ended last week with the acquittal of the officers involved.
44-year-old Tommie McGlothen was in the midst of a mental health crisis when he came into contact with Shreveport officers in 2020. The Department did not report his death publicly and took nearly 60-days to inform the District Attorney that the case file was “missing reports, statements, downloads and other vital information essential to conduct a thorough and complete review.”
Shreveport police initially told McGlothen’s family that he suffered a heart attack, but when the family went to view his body, they discovered he had a broken nose, broken jaw, and the entire right side of his face was swollen. Citizen-captured cell phone video, later turned over to the investigators, proved the original story a cover-up, showing officers holding McGlothen on the ground while beating and tasing him.
Four officers involved in the arrest—Brian Ross, James LeClare, Treona McCarter, and D’Marea Johnson—were indicted for negligent homicide and malfeasance in connection with McGlothen’s death. After the officers waived their right to a jury trial, Caddo District Court Judge Chris Victory acquitted them of all charges.
In their motion for what is called a directed acquittal, defense lawyers noted that Louisiana State Police and the U.S. Department of Justice both reviewed the case and neither referred it to prosecutors.
“Our faith in the judicial system has been renewed,” Michael Carter, president of the Shreveport Police Officers Association, said after the trial, ABC affiliate KTBS of Shreveport reported.
Louisiana is also under scrutiny for its troubled juvenile detention system, rife with brutal conditions, riots, and escapes.
Earlier this year, a group of journalists reported that teenagers at the Acadiana Center for Youth at St. Martinville were being held in round-the-clock solitary confinement with no education:
Though Louisiana policy considers solitary confinement for youths a rare last resort and many other states have placed strict limits on it because of the psychological harm it causes, teens in this facility, some with serious mental illness, were locked alone in their cells for at least 23 hours a day for weeks on end. They were shackled with handcuffs and leg irons when let out to shower, and given little more than meals slid through slots in their doors…
At least two of the teens in the facility harmed themselves so badly that they required medical attention. Some destroyed beds and shattered light fixtures, using the metal shards to hack holes in the cinder block walls large enough for them to escape.
Faced with stories from individuals held in solitary confinement as children, the state legislature reached a rare bipartisan consensus on criminal justice reform and passed a bill limiting young people to no more than eight hours in isolation unless they continue to pose a physical threat to themselves or others.
Meanwhile, 20 youth offenders took over the Bridge City Youth Center for two hours earlier this month, requiring SWAT officers to regain control. While state senators are calling for the facility to be closed down, the Office of Juvenile Justice administration responded by authorizing use-of-force techniques, including tasers and pepper spray, against young detainees.
“The way to understand these policies is that they’re a threat of increased use-of-force on children in facilities that are supposed to be helping children and rehabilitating children,” said Aaron Clark-Rizzio, executive director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. “If there is too much fear and violence within these facilities, they’re not going to help that by introducing more fear and more violence.”
Some Louisiana cities would rather pay other states to take their young detainees, sending them hundreds of miles away. The city of Plaquemine, in southern Louisiana, for example, has paid a facility 400 miles away in southern Alabama to hold kids who were arrested in the city and awaiting trial.
The Lens found that over a dozen cities and parishes are contracting either with the Dothan facility, or another in Natchez, Mississippi, and have together paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to hold kids from Louisiana — sometimes for just days, but often for weeks or months at a time.
The arrangements may violate state laws, which appear to require that kids who are arrested be held in detention facilities that have been licensed by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. DCFS does not license any out-of-state facilities. Advocates for juveniles have raised concerns that not only are children being moved far away from their families and lawyers, but there is no oversight from the state regarding the conditions of the facilities that they are being sent to in other states.