Posted: Jan 4, 2011 8:27 PM by Alison Haynes
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department has cleared Baton Rouge police officers who were accused of harassing African-Americans, using unnecessary violence and conducting illegal searches after Hurricane Katrina.
The move, reported by WAFB-TV on Tuesday, was confirmed by the current and former Baton Rouge police chiefs.
"After conducting a full and thorough review, the Department has closed their investigation," said Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa (So-chi E-no-ho-sa).
The accusations came from officers from other states who were in Baton Rouge assisting with law enforcement following the 2005 hurricane, when thousands of victims of the massive storm and the flooding that followed it, escaped to the city about 70 miles northwest of New Orleans
A statement from former chief Jeff LeDuff and current interim chief Charles Mondrick said they were pleased with the conclusion of the investigation, but not surprised.
Public records showed that state police from New Mexico and Michigan reported the alleged behavior when they pulled troopers out after two days of helping local police deal with hurricane evacuees in September 2005.
According to reports obtained through a public records lawsuit by The Advocate, troopers described Baton Rouge officers as being loud and rude to African-Americans but polite to whites. The reports published by The Advocate quoted one as saying Baton Rouge officers referred to black people as "animals" that needed to be beaten down. Troopers also reported that officers said they were ordered to make life rough for New Orleans evacuees so they would leave town, the Advocate reported at the time.
"We were pleased, but certainly not surprised, to learn that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has concluded its investigation and found no wrongdoing by our officers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," LeDuff and Mondrick said in a statement. "This reaffirms the results of our own thorough internal investigation, conducted over five years ago."
The statement said the investigation found only a handful of incidents of misconduct. Police did not respond immediately to questions of how serious those incidents were.
"Appropriate corrective disciplinary action was taken against the small number of officers involved in those few instances that were substantiated," the statement said.
A telephone message left Tuesday at the Baton Rouge office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was not immediately returned.