NEW ORLEANS — One year after the ACLU of Louisiana called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch a pattern-or-practice investigation into misconduct by the Louisiana State Police (LSP), the Justice Department has announced it will launch a civil rights investigation. 

Alanah Odoms, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director, responded with the following: 

“One year ago, the ACLU of Louisiana prepared a series of detailed memoranda to the Department of Justice enumerating thirteen cases of excessive force and constitutional rights violations against Black and Brown Louisiana citizens in the last five years alone. We also documented discriminatory training practices, a culture of racism within the agency, racial violence directed at the community, and a dangerous cone of silence that inhibits transparent and lawful disclosure of evidence. This systemic misconduct was blessed by top brass at the Louisiana State Police. In response, the Department of Justice, according to the Associated Press, will initiate a pattern-or-practice investigation designed to verify and document the myriad constitutional violations and rampant discrimination we have alleged. We commend Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clark and the talented attorneys of the Civil Rights Division for marshaling the enormous resources necessary to conduct an investigation of this size and scale. 

“The Justice Department, through its evaluation of incident reports, body-worn camera footage, policies, training materials, and supervision records of the Louisiana State Police, will advance the effective, accountable, bias-free policing the people of this state so deeply deserve. This commitment by AAG Clarke and the DOJ to identify and remedy systemic misconduct symbolizes far more than a small step, it is a huge leap in furtherance of justice for Louisianans whose rights have been violated by this cruel and corrupt agency.

“Today marks two years since the ACLU of Louisiana launched Justice Lab, a litigation, legislative, and storytelling initiative geared toward holding Louisiana law enforcement accountable for unconstitutional conduct, and lifting up the voices of people who’ve experienced police violence. Since June 2020, we’ve received more than 415 complaints from community members from across Louisiana’s 64 parishes citing police misconduct including: false arrest, excessive force, unlawful stops, searches, and seizure, and racial profiling. The Justice Lab Campaign has filed nearly 40 federal lawsuits under section 1983 on behalf of our clients, and introduced and passed critical accountability measures in the state legislature, including a new bill that will amend the Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights to provide protections to police whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing within their ranks. 

“The Justice Lab is also challenging Louisiana’s draconian one-year statute of limitations in section 1983 cases, a law which prevents hundreds of people from vindicating their rights in court. Moreover, our dedicated attorney volunteers and staff have worked to help dozens of community members document their experiences of police violence. 

“Through our diligent work to hold police accountable through our Justice Lab, we learned that Ronald Greene’s case is merely the tip of the iceberg. There exists a culture of violence, terror, and discrimination at LSP that is tantamount to systemic misconduct throughout the agency. This systemic injustice can only be rectified if it is properly diagnosed. An independent, impartial, and comprehensive investigation of the agency conducted by the Department of Justice will be necessary and will produce a detailed set of remedial measures. A pattern-or-practice investigation will also identify the root causes of the misconduct so that they can be fixed, once and for all. 

“The ACLU of Louisiana will never stop fighting to ensure that Ronald Greene’s death was not in vain, and to ensure that the lives of people hurt by police violence continue to matter. We look forward to working alongside the Department of Justice in their investigation. We won’t rest until Black and Brown people — and all people in Louisiana and across this country — are safe from police violence.”

ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Nora Ahmed’s response:

“It is our hope that holding LSP out as an example — the most revered and lauded police force in the state — will serve as a warning to other police officers and departments engaging in the very same misconduct at issue here. The sad reality is, too many of our Justice Lab cases show that misconduct by police in Louisiana is by no means limited to LSP.  

“It is time for all police departments in Louisiana to stop justifying unlawful attacks on Black and Brown people through the legal process. These agencies should be coming to the table to right the wrongs they’ve committed. They need to, in earnest, start investigating complaints in good faith and decertifying officers that should not have a badge here or elsewhere. They should also start handing over public records promptly, so the public is aware forthwith of exactly what happened during a specific encounter; it should have never taken two years for the truth about Ronald Greene’s death to come to light.

“Our law enforcement agencies must start helping the courts understand that it is essential to believe Black and Brown people when they say they fear for their lives when a police officer presents on the scene. The reactions so many Black and Brown people have to police presence are not reactions of guilt justifying force; they are reactions of fear, justifying the polar opposite reaction from police. Police and community relations cannot be solved through justifications that present themselves as antagonists to the very core of what is essential to improve police-community relations: trust.”