State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux spoke with KATC today about the Legislative Black Caucus' request that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a Pattern and Practice investigation of Louisiana State Police.
The caucus sent a letter to the DOJ yesterday, requesting the investigation. This particular type of investigation is conducted by the Civil Rights Division.
"The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has employed this process in communities across the nation to reform serious patterns and practices of excessive force, biased policing and other unconstitutional practices by law enforcement," an explanatory document states. "The division has ongoing cases in cities across the country. The division has worked in departments as small as six officers and as large as 17,000."
A few interesting aspects of this type of investigation: Those conducting the review talk to the community as well as police officers, and their final report is completely public. Another important aspect of these types of reviews is that the Civil Rights Division works with agencies to correct the problems that are found, including recommendations or agreements for change.
Boudreaux tells KATC that he feels this type of investigation can ensure that recent issues - the Ronald Greene case, for instance - are the exception and not the norm. It looks at an agency for system problems, issues with an organization versus a specific incident, he explained.
He said it's an opportunity for State Police and for Louisiana to have access to resources that will help restore confidence in the agency through transparency, accountability measures and the like.
"We have to ensure that credibility is there, because they are called in when there are potential conflicts at the local level. That's why we're asking the federal government to ensure that if there are issues we need to address," Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux said the Greene case - in which video shows state troopers beating a man who later died, and whose family was told he died in a car crash - was "terrible"
"That body cam showed things that nobody could be proud of," Boudreaux said.
Even so, the senator said, he doesn't want to condemn an entire agency because of a few officers.
"We're going to let the process roll out, and we're going to get more information," he said.
To date, changes have been made. There's a new commander of the agency, and since last year the legislature has made 16 of 18 recommended changes in state law to address issues with policing.
Boudreaux said he understands that many citizens want deep changes in law enforcement. He has a message for them.
"Hang on. I know it's difficult when we see these videos. We don't have answers to all of the questions," Boudreaux said. "But we feel confident that the federal government, through the Department of Justice, will assist us in making that determination. Is it systemic? What other changes need to be made?"
Boudreaux said there are many more good police officers than there are bad ones. He said the focus should be on setting up a system that gets rid of the bad.
"It's not our position to judge. It's our position to make sure there's a system in place to weed out those who are not following the rules, who are not following the laws," he said. "We've taken some steps, and the governor has made some changes, and now we're asking the Department of Justice to assist us to bring that public trust back, to a level where we can feel safe and trust those with this power."