ACLU of Louisiana Sends Second Demand Letter to the Department of Justice

Letter calls for an investigation into Louisiana State Police’s Racist Misconduct, cites 15 gruesome cases filed against the agency

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
September 9, 2021 11:15 am

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NEW ORLEANS – For the second time the ACLU of Louisiana has issued a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) demanding a pattern-or-practice investigation into Louisiana State Police’s (LSP) history of targeted violence and misconduct towards Black people. The addendum to their June 17 demand letter provides extensive responses to three key inquiries the DOJ considers in determining whether to initiate a pattern-or-practice investigation into a state-run police department: the severity of the misconduct at issue; the lack of training that such conduct reflects and exacerbates; and the degree to which a federal investigation would satisfy an unmet need for accountability.

The second letter comes on the heels of recently released body camera footage showing a Louisiana State trooper beating Aaron Bowman, an unarmed Black man, over the head 18 times with a flashlight. The incident took place only weeks after Ronald Greene was killed by officers from the same troop—the highest ranking state trooper present on the night Greene was killed has not received any discipline from LSP internal affairs despite reports of lying about his body camera footage.

“For nearly a decade, LSP has operated under a guise of professionalism and excellence, while it simultaneously demonstrates an unrelenting pattern of brutality and violence targeting communities of color,” said Alanah Odoms, executive director of ACLU of Louisiana. “We can no longer rely on the Louisiana State Police to investigate their own misconduct and violations of the law. Federal oversight may be the only remedy to stop the senseless violence and taking of lives. Louisianans deserve a state police force that protects and serves all residents. With rampant police violence, cover-up schemes, and a lack of accountability for troopers who violate the law, we’re a long way from that reality.”

The ACLU’s addendum cites an extensive list of federal civil rights cases filed against LSP between 2015 and 2021, many of which are gruesome and speak to a need for significant reform:

  • Boot Man Inc. v. Patout: LSP officers in an unmarked car allegedly beat and seized a lot attendant for putting a boot on their car
  • Groves v. LSP: a man was allegedly illegally pulled over and beaten
  • Price v. LSP: a diabetic man was allegedly unlawfully detained and arrested
  • Thomas v. LSP: a driver, during the course of a field sobriety test, was allegedly repeatedly tased by LSP officers without cause or justification
  • Terrell v. Pichon: LSP officers allegedly tased and then beat a young Black man riding his bicycle
  • Betts v. Brennan: LSP officers allegedly tased a man without cause or justification
  • Smith v. LSP: LSP officers allegedly beat a man to the point where he was unrecognizable—and then passed around pictures of him with the caption: “this is what happens when you run from the police”
  • North Baton Rouge Matters v. City of Baton Rouge and Imani v. City of Baton Rouge: citizens protesting Alton Sterling’s killing were allegedly violently thrown to the ground and arrested by police, including LSP officers
  • Greene v. DeMoss: LSP officers allegedly killed Mr. Greene and then covered it up
  • Bowman v. Sheriff’s Office Ouachita Parish: LSP oversaw the hiring and training of the officers that allegedly kicked and hit Mr. Bowman to the point where he had a head laceration, fractured arm, and broken ribs—among other ailments
  • Frazier v. La. State Police et al.: LSP officers allegedly fraudulently arrested, imprisoned, and issued a fraudulent warrant for the plaintiff, who spent six months in jail for a crime he claims he did not commit
  • Harris v. Brown: LSP officers allegedly knelt on a man’s head and brutally beat him using knee strikes and a flashlight
  • Blake v. Brown: LSP officers allegedly assaulted and battered a man—who was allegedly “not resisting, attempting to escape or being aggressive”—after conducting an illegal search of his vehicle and finding approximately thirteen pounds of marijuana
  • LaBauve v. State: state appellate court affirmed trial court ruling finding that an LSP trooper had used excessive force when he arrested a 76-year-old motorist by putting him face first on rocks and gravel to handcuff him

In addition to summaries of core allegations against the agency, the letter also describes LSP’s disturbing hiring and firing practices and finds that numerous officers found guilty of misconduct remain on the force. One officer successfully joined LSP’s Troop B after he was assigned to desk duty at Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for his involvement in the killing of a Black man in 2018. This year, an LSP Troop F officer who killed two girls in a car crash due to negligence was given only a few months’ suspension—the officer had been in two previous crashes in less than three years.

The letter also documents the agency’s lack of training and accountability, stating that a federal court deemed LSP’s training materials both “repugnant” and “discriminatory.” The agency has failed to properly train its officers in de-escalation techniques, including how to approach individuals suffering from mental health crises. A lack of de-escalation training led to the untimely deaths of Travis Stevenson and Trayford Pellerin, both Black men who were killed by LSP officers while suffering from mental health episodes.

“There is no external oversight mechanism in existence to initiate training-based reforms within LSP,” said Nora Ahmed, legal director of ACLU of Louisiana. “This coupled with the severity of the misconduct and lack of adequate transparency and accountability demonstrates that, in the absence of a federal investigation, LSP will continue to put Louisianans at risk of constitutional rights violations.

“The DOJ is uniquely positioned to remedy all of the misconduct listed in our formal demand, and the ACLU of Louisiana stands ready to assist the Department however it sees fit.”

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