BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – The United States Department of Justice is opening a sweeping civil rights investigation into Louisiana’s state police amid mounting evidence that the agency has a pattern of looking the other way in the face of beatings of mostly black men, including the deadly arrest of Ronald Greene in 2019.
The federal “patron-of-practice” probe, which officials familiar with the case told The Associated Press will be announced later Thursday, comes more than three years after white troopers were captured on long-hidden body-cameras. videos, stunning and dragging Greene on a rural road near Monroe. Despite a lengthy, ongoing federal and state investigation into a death initially attributed to a car accident, no one has yet been charged.
An AP investigation found that Greene’s arrest was one of at least a dozen cases in the past decade in which state police officers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of assault, diverted blame and attempted to stamp out wrongdoing. hindered. Dozens of current and former troopers said the beatings were tolerated by a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, outright racism.
The AP report shows that troopers have made it a habit to turn off or mute body cameras during pursuits. When images are recorded, the agency has routinely refused to release them. And a recently retired supervisor who oversaw a particularly violent cabal of troopers told internal investigators last year that it was his “common practice” to stamp violent reports from officers without ever watching body-camera video.
In some cases, troopers omitted the use of force such as blows to the head from official reports, and in others, troopers tried to justify their actions by claiming that suspects were violent, resisted or escaped, all of which were contradicted by video footage.
Those who confirmed the “pattern-of-practice” investigation spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation before it was announced.
A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately comment. A state police spokesman had no immediate comment, but said the agency plans to release a statement later Thursday.
Black leaders have been urging the Justice Department for months to launch a broader investigation into possible racial profiling by the predominantly white state police, similar to other investigations opened in the past year in Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix.
They say 67% of the use of force by state police in recent years has been directed against blacks, who make up 33% of the state population.
The action comes as Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards prepares to testify before a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers investigating Greene’s death. Edwards and his lawyers privately watched the video of Greene taking his last breath during his fatal arrest — footage that only reached prosecutors nearly two years after Greene’s death on May 10, 2019.
Federal prosecutors are also still investigating whether police buyers obstructed justice to protect troopers in the Greene case — and whether they tried to hide evidence of troopers beating other black motorists.
Bleiberg reported from Uvalde, Texas.
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