Amidst Ronald Greene investigation, ACLU-LA seeks to advance legislation that gets to the root of ongoing police misconduct

NEW ORLEANS The American Civil Liberties Union today announced strong support of transformational legislation that would hold Louisiana’s police accountable and break the cycle of violence, racism, and corruption that has plagued the state’s law enforcement agencies for decades.

In the past year alone, the ACLU of Louisiana has sued 25 departments and over 150 officers for unconstitutional policing. In many of those cases, the officers involved had previous records of serious misconduct and were often allowed to move to new agencies where they continued patterns of unlawful behavior. Now, ACLU-LA is taking their fight to the Capitol, where the investigation into Ronald Greene’s murder has taken center stage, exposing years of corruption within the Louisiana State Police force. 

“Ronald Greene’s killing has brought to light that for years the Louisiana State Police have been allowed to engage in violent and racist practices without consequence,” said Chris Kaiser, ACLU of Louisiana Advocacy Director. “But it would be a mistake to assume that problems like officers with long misconduct records, inadequate discipline for misconduct, lack of transparency, and a culture of impunity are limited to the State Police. The issues surrounding Mr. Greene’s killing shine a light on a set of laws and policies that make it easy for violence, corruption, and racism to persist in our law enforcement agencies. We’re hoping to address this through a set of reforms this legislative session and beyond.”

HB 702 by Representative Edmond Jordan would help Louisianans overcome the judge-invented doctrine of qualified immunity by allowing residents to file lawsuits against unconstitutional policing in state court. For decades, qualified immunity has protected police officers and other government officials who break the law, even when the incident leads to someone being hurt or killed. HB 702 would mean that the police play by the same rules as the rest of us: if you violate someone's rights, you can be held liable in a court of law.

HB 745, introduced by Representative Kyle Green, seeks to strengthen protections for good cops who blow the whistle on misconduct, while reforming certain special protections for police officers accused of misconduct. The bill would add a new protection for police whistleblowers in the “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights” law. In addition, the bill would ensure that sustained misconduct complaints remain on officers’ records for the entirety of their careers — current law allows complaints to be scrubbed after ten years, even if an officer kills a civilian. 

“Right now in Louisiana, our laws are out of balance. The scales are weighted in favor of officers who violate people’s rights, but we have inadequate protections for police whistleblowers,” said Kaiser. “We’ve seen a number of officers face retaliation when attempting to report misconduct. And it’s hard to build trust between the police and the communities they serve when good cops themselves can’t expose misconduct without fear of retaliation. HB 745 would change that and, ideally, encourage more people to reveal evidence of wrongdoing within these corrupt agencies.”

In addition to HB 702 and HB 745, the ACLU is also showing strong support for Senator Cleo Fields’ SB 182 — a bill that would enable the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council to revoke certification for cops who violate Louisianans’ rights. Louisiana is among the least likely states to decertify officers for misconduct, meaning that officers found to have committed serious misconduct are often free to move to new agencies and continue their patterns of abuse. 

Kaiser continued, “If our leaders at the Capitol want to help uphold the integrity of this profession and rectify the culture of police impunity, they can turn their attention to these crucial bills. There is no simple fix, but these bills would alleviate some of the obstacles to accountability that have enabled repeat offenders within the ranks.”