The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a civil “pattern or practice” investigation into the Louisiana State Police, looking specifically into allegations of the use of excessive force and discriminatory policing.
The investigation has been open since June 9, 2022 and is the first investigation of a state police agency in 20 years.
It comes after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana sent multiple letters to the Department of Justice demanding an investigation into the Louisiana State Police, citing their beating of two unarmed Black men, Aaron Bowman and Antonio Harris, and the murder of Ronald Greene, an unarmed 49-year-old Black man, who was tased, pepper-sprayed, beaten, put in a chokehold and dragged face-down along the ground before being pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.
The investigation is being led by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and three U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Louisiana. The team behind it is looking into things like training, policies, procedures, practices and so on to determine whether the Louisiana State Police is violating the Constitution in relation to excessive use of force and racially discriminatory policing.
According to the Department of Justice’s press release, “The investigation will include a comprehensive review of LSP policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as LSP’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.”
If the investigation turns up a pattern or practice that’s in violation of the Constitution, the team will be looking to find what the cause of that is, whether that be poor training, supervision issues, problems with internal accountability and so on.
Once the issues are diagnosed, the team will write a report and negotiate with the state to create a consent decree. The consent decree would state the issues found and what needs to be done to address those issues, and once agreed upon, is enforceable by the federal court, and a judge will be selected to monitor and ensure that the Louisiana State Police consistently abide by the provisions in the consent decree.
Currently, the team is still collecting information and has no findings to report at the time, and is looking to hear from the community about their experience with the police. As a part of this effort, a town hall was held on March 28, open to the public to voice their thoughts and perspective on the issue.
Present at the town hall was Terry Landry, the first Black Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, who shared that he felt leadership, training and accountability were key issues within the police force.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on driving, a lot of emphasis on shooting, but no emphasis on diversity, no emphasis on conflict resolution, no emphasis on understanding mental patients and how to deal with mental patients.”Terry Landry
Landry further added the need for consistency in how police officers are disciplined and what is expected of them.
“You can’t have different standards for different police officers, your discipline has to be consistent and people in the agency need to know the clear path on what to expect,” Landry said.
Others in attendance shared their stories of family members who faced discrimination and excessive force by the police, and raised concerns about there being no real oversight over the police and few true consequences for bad behavior, as well as issues with the judicial system itself not properly serving the community.
The Department of Justice is still looking to hear from the community. Anyone who wishes to voice their perspective and experiences with the police are encouraged to share their testimonials by calling 202-353-0684, or emailing Community.Louisiana@usdoj.gov.