LA State Senate To Investigate LA State Police After Governor Edwards Turns a Blind Eye

Louisiana State Police – State Trooper Squad Car” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In what must be called a breath of fresh air, a new Louisiana Senate seven member advisory panel is launching a long-overdue investigate surrounding complaints that numerous members of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) have historically used excessive force against Black men. The swift action by State Senate President Page Cortez to establish the Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight in sharp contrast to Governor John Bel Edwards’ ongoing silence even as more cases of alleged brutal conduct came to light.

Being a member of the LSP is the best law enforcement job in the state. For most cops joining the state police it is like a dream. It pays well, is relatively easy, and usually doesn’t place officers in life-threatening situations. LSP officers are supposed to be the best of the best and exemplify honor, duty and courage. Yet the LSP is also one the largest good ol’ boy networks in Louisiana where officers cover up for each other and fathers push hard to get their sons accepted into the ranks as “legacy hires” regardless of their temperament or qualifications.

Most pundits agree that Edwards lacked the courage to go after these officers because of his family’s history in law enforcement in Tangipahoa Parish. Edwards’ brother Daniel currently serves as Sheriff as did Edwards’ father. The governor could have been proactive when the 2019 death of Ronald Greene was first reported. Instead, Edwards sat on his hands and allowed unacceptable conduct to continue.

Though Republican State Senator Foil Franklin, a lawyer and former Navy officer who served as a military judge, will chair the panel, the real driving force will be State Senator Cleo Fields, a lawyer and tireless advocate for civil and victims’rights who requested the panel be created.

When meetings begin in December, expect Fields and Franklin to waste no time in getting to the heart of the investigation – what kind of oversight the LSP has when there are reports of excessive force that have been used inappropriately and what mechanisms they have as far as safeguards. The panel’s recommendations are due to the full Senate by October 31, 2022.

Federal investigators are also reviewing the beating of Greene and other cases that may confirm the suspected pattern of cover-ups by LSP leadership. Body camera footage that took two years to obtain showed a shackled Greene being stunned, punched and dragged by white troopers all while Greene screamed “I’m your brother! I’m scared, I’m scared.”

The Associated Press (AP) released a scathing investigative report earlier this week that revealed a culture of “impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism.” According to the AP, 57 percent of troopers’ uses of force in recent years have targeted Blacks- double the percentage of Louisiana’s Black population. In addition to the death of unsuspecting motorist Ronald Greene, other egregious cases are also under review. The AP identified at least a dozen cases during the last decade where troopers or their superiors “ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.” Many of the troopers who are suspected of committing these acts are assigned to Troop F, based in Monroe, Louisiana.

Fields, the state senator, has previously been successful causing the implementation of new LSP restrictions on the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and stronger policies on the use of body cameras. A new policy requiring anti-bias training for the LSP and other state agencies can also be credited to Fields.

Even State Police Superintendent Colonel Lamar Davis, a Black man who is considered a reformer, admits that the state police have lost the public’s trust. “We’ve got to face this head on. We have to change quite a few things in our agency,” admitted Davis at a recent press conference.

Change will not come quickly or easily to the LSP. The culture endemic at the state police was decades in the making and will take decades to remake. It may be possible to fire (or prosecute) officers who outwardly participated in inappropriate acts, but it is often impossible to know how seasoned troopers really feel in their hearts. While anti-bias training of current officers will surely be helpful, the soul of the Louisiana State Police will not be transformed until the ranks are filled with new officers who more accurately reflect the diversity of Louisiana residents and who are truly committed to treating every citizen they encounter with dignity and respect.


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