The U.S. Justice Department is opening a sweeping civil rights investigation into the Louisiana State Police amid evidence that the agency looks the other way in the face of beatings of Black men, including the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, the Associated Press reports. The federal “pattern-or-practice” probe announced Thursday followed an AP investigation that found Greene’s arrest was among at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which state troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct. Dozens of current and former troopers said the beatings were encouraged by a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, outright racism. The federal probe, the first such action against a statewide law enforcement agency in more than two decades, comes more than three years after white troopers were captured on long-withheld body-camera video beating, stunning and dragging Greene on a rural roadside. Despite lengthy, ongoing federal and state criminal investigations into a death troopers initially blamed on a car crash, no one has been charged.
AP reported that troopers have made a habit of turning off or muting body cameras during pursuits. When footage is recorded, the agency has routinely refused to release it. A recently retired supervisor who oversaw a violent clique of troopers told internal investigators last year that it was his “common practice” to rubber-stamp officers’ use-of-force reports without reviewing body-camera video. In some cases, troopers omitted uses of force such as blows to the head from official reports. In others, troopers sought to justify their actions by claiming suspects were violent, resisting or escaping, all of which were contradicted by video footage. “This systemic misconduct was blessed by top brass at the Louisiana State Police,” said Alanah Odoms of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. She described a “culture of violence, terror, and discrimination” within the agency, calling Greene’s death “the tip of the iceberg.”