Louisiana State Police Superintendent Offers Reforms Following Robert Greene’s Death; Congressman Troy Carter Not Satisfied

Credit: Louisiana State Police Public Safety Services

In a recent news conference, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Colonel Lamar A. Davis, a Black man himself, discussed police reforms, directly addressing Ronald Greene’s death and Lieutenant John Clary, one of the officers on the scene of Greene’s death.

Besides the death of Greene, two more incidents bear notice. In May, 2019, Aaron Larry Bowman of Monroe received 18 blows with a flashlight while face-down on the ground from former LSP Trooper Jacob Brown, according to body camera footage, also during a traffic stop. He was hospitalized for his injuries. In May, 2020, Antonio Harris, again face down on the ground, received a beating from multiple officers after leading LSP on a high-speed chase. All three incidents involved unarmed black men who appeared to be compliant when assaulted by police. As a result, more than 13 lawsuits have been filed against LSP. In each case, falsified incident reports were provided by officers, body camera footage has gone missing, been deliberately mislabeled or body cameras were turned off or misdirected during arrests.

It is no wonder then that what began as a report on recovery efforts after Hurricane Ida, quickly moved to needed reforms within the Louisiana State Police.  According to Colonel Davis, “Upon assuming the role of Superintendent of Louisiana State Police in October of 2020, I quickly realized the agency faced some significant challenges. And although the events in question happened prior to my administration, I committed myself and my team to making significant changes that would vastly improve the service we provide for all of our citizens.”

He added, “But before I get into any of that, let me just start by saying that I do not condone any form of excessive force. Nor will I tolerate this type of behavior in my agency.”

Continuing, he said, “…I will continue to hold those that violate our rules, those that violate the laws, and the Constitution, accountable for their actions, and for their behavior.”

“To put a couple of things in context,” Davis said, “Over the last decade, troopers have encountered 5.7 million citizens, through traffic stops, arrests, and motorist assists. During that time, troopers were involved in use of force incidents 0.052% of the time.

“However, that does not change that we have had some employees violate the trust of our citizens and their fellow coworkers. And when that occurs it is incumbent on us as leaders of this agency to be sure to do what’s right, to hold them accountable, and responsible.”

About Lieutenant Clary, who has been accused of lying to investigators concerning body camera footage of the death of Ronald Greene and the initial claims that such footage existed, Davis said, “As many of you may know, earlier this year my agency personnel discovered that the video evidence relative to Mr. Ronald Greene, recorded by Lieutenant Clary’s body worn camera was not submitted to the district attorney’s office with the original case file. It was through our personnel’s discovery that we learned of this. In this case, in the case of Lieutenant Clary, the videos were logged and submitted to our evidence.com system the day of the incident. They were also previously provided to federal authorities, and used in the disciplinary proceedings of Trooper York.” Master Trooper Kory York was seen in a bodycam video dragging Greene by his leg shackles.

Davis continued, “It was again provided to federal investigators and the district attorney’s office, in a supplemental report. But we didn’t stop there. Immediately after learning of this, I authorized my internal affairs section to launch an administrative investigation into this matter.” He said that he could neither prove nor disprove that Lieutenant Clary withheld evidence and, “As such Lieutenant Clary was not sustained on any violations.”

As far as an internal investigation was concerned, Davis explained that he could not compel former employees to cooperate, and that time was limited to 60 days unless an extension was granted. (More than one officer in the three cases has resigned.) Davis also pointed out repeatedly that he could not comment on ongoing investigations and lawsuits.

While Davis offered several reforms, including a ban on chokeholds, some were dissatisfied with the press conference, including Congressman Troy Carter of Louisiana’s 2nd District, who called for the Department of Justice to become more deeply involved, tweeting that “Regardless of the statement made today, it is clear that the @LAStatePolice will not clean up its own house.”  Further, in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Congressman Carter said, “I write today to request a pattern-or-practice investigation of the Louisiana State Police (“LSP”). The department has displayed a blatant disregard for the rule of law and accountability practices regarding excessive use of force by police.”

He added that, “LSP’s efforts [to cover up Ronald Greene’s death] were successful for over two years. During that time, LSP stuck to the story that Mr. Greene had died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash. No LSP personnel were disciplined, and the trooper’s body camera footage was suppressed.

“As Mr. Greene’s tragic death entered the public conscience, the LSP assured the public that this was an isolated incident. However, the evidence says otherwise. This was undoubtedly not an isolated incident. LSP has historically and systematically directed unnecessarily violent, targeted attacks, especially upon Black and brown individuals.”

Carter added that, “Regardless of statements at a press conference today, it is clear that the LSP will not clean up its own house, and I have no faith they are capable of policing themselves. Had it not been for the work of investigative journalists, we may never have heard of Ronald Greene.

“While there are media reports that a federal investigation into these circumstances is underway, more must be done. ‘Driving while Black’ should not be a risk factor for violence from the Louisiana State Police. I call on the Department of Justice to conduct a full and expedited pattern-or-practice investigation of LSP. Only with an in-depth investigation can we ensure transparency and accountability within the Louisiana State Police Department, despite their sworn oaths to protect and serve.”

As citizens await justice for the death of Ronald Greene, at least someone may be punished: an officer who dared to provide information regarding the incident. Reported whistle-blower State Trooper Carl Cavalier may receive a five-week unpaid suspension for speaking up about Ronald Greene’s case and a book he published. This punishment would exceed any as yet handed down to those who directly participated in Ronald Greene’s violent death and subsequent cover up.

Trooper Kory York was suspended for only 50 hours.

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