NEW ORLEANS – In a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the US Department of Justice, the ACLU of Louisiana today called for a pattern or practice investigation into misconduct by the Louisiana State Police (LSP). The demand comes after growing concern over LSP’s pattern of targeting and using objectively unreasonable force against Black people, which the office then goes to great lengths to conceal. The letter, which is penned by ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms, includes examples from three civil lawsuits filed against LSP, each involving officers from Troop F ruthlessly beating unarmed Black men: Ronald Greene in May 2019, Aaron Bowman just two weeks later, and Antonio Harris in May 2020.
“The people of Louisiana do not trust the Louisiana State Police—we don’t trust them to protect all citizens, nor to treat Black people with dignity and respect,” said Alanah Odoms, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Furthermore, we certainly cannot trust that LSP is capable of performing impartial and thorough investigations into matters which involve their own misconduct. What the evidence has clearly shown is that LSP officers have systematically violated Black people’s fundamental constitutional rights through racial profiling, assault, excessive force, and unlawful killing. Federal intervention is our only path forward in disrupting this horrific cycle of abuse and corruption. We demand a thorough and unfettered investigation of the entire Louisiana State Police organization. We urge the Department of Justice to wield all applicable authority to investigate LSP.”
LSP is authorized to investigate any police killing that takes place across the entire state and frequently handles investigations at the request of local agencies. Its reports provide the foundation for granting officers qualified immunity when families sue to vindicate the rights of their loved ones who have been unlawfully slain by police. Data compiled by the ACLU of Louisiana shows that Black men comprise less than 20% percent of the state’s population, but police kill them at nearly twice the rate of white men. In a significant number of these lethal encounters, LSP has been the investigating agency.
Following the overwhelming national outcry last month over Ronald Greene’s killing, LSP insisted that the investigation into widespread racism and malfeasance within the agency be examined by a secret LSP panel consisting of potentially compromised officers—a deeply troubling response. The ACLU of Louisiana immediately called for a top-to-bottom federal investigation of Troop F and the entire police agency. The ACLU of Louisiana echoed the Greene family’s demands for federal charges and state charges against all involved officers.
In 2003, the Department of Justice intervened immediately when it found troubling disparities in the manner in which the New Orleans Black community was treated by police. The Department identified an urgent need to implement systems of accountability to ensure the New Orleans Police Department was enforcing the law in a fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory manner.
“Absent a similar investigation by the Department of Justice into LSP, and in all likelihood, a consent decree, LSP will continue to indiscriminately violate the rights of those they are sworn to serve and protect,” said Odoms. “This is not a matter of a few bad apples—this is a systemic issue that demands a systemic and transparent response.”