Ronald Greene's Death Prompts Internal Investigation Into Louisiana State Police Unit's Handlings of Black Motorists

·3 min read
Family members of Ronald Greene listen to speakers during the “Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” protest against racism and police brutality, at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2020, in Washington DC. Greene died in police custody following a high-speed chase in Louisiana in 2019.
Family members of Ronald Greene listen to speakers during the “Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” protest against racism and police brutality, at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2020, in Washington DC. Greene died in police custody following a high-speed chase in Louisiana in 2019.

A unit of the Louisiana State Police—the same police department that was involved in the in-custody death of Ronald Greene and accused in the merciless beatings of Antonio Harris and Aaron Bowman, all of whom are Black men—is now under internal investigation by a panel made up of other state police officials tasked with determining whether the unit’s police officers are targeting Black drivers for police brutality.

The Associated Press reports that it was Greene’s 2019 death—which officers had the blue caucasity to blame on a car crash rather than them repeatedly beating and tasing him—that prompted the investigation, along with other clear instances of excessive force used by police, including the altercation involving Bowman.

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“Every time I told him to stop he’d hit me again,” Bowman, who was left with three broken ribs, a broken jaw, a broken wrist and a head wound after a state trooper who has since resigned reportedly beat him with a flashlight, told AP. “I don’t want to see this happen to nobody—not to my worst enemy.”

From AP:

The panel began working a few weeks ago to review thousands of body-camera videos over the past two years involving as many as a dozen white troopers, at least four of whom were involved in Greene’s arrest.

The review is focused on Louisiana State Police Troop F, a 66-officer unit that patrols a sprawling territory in the northeastern part of the state and has become notorious in recent years for alleged acts of brutality that have resulted in felony charges against some of its troopers.

“You’d be naïve to think it’s limited to two or three instances. That’s why you’re seeing this audit, which is a substantial undertaking by any agency,” said Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who is president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans-based watchdog group. “They’ve got to identify these people and remove them from the organization.”

Other than the federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death, the state police panel is the only known inquiry into possible systemic abuse and racism by its troopers.

The seven-member state police panel will also determine whether troopers from the unit have hidden evidence of the excessive force they’re accused of using by turning off their body cameras, mislabeling footage booked into evidence or by other means.

AP noted that a deadline for the investigation’s findings hasn’t been reported and that it’s unclear if there are any plans to “expand the inquiry to the eight other troops in the 1,200-officer state police.”

Obviously, a panel of state police tasked with investigating other state police isn’t going to inspire much confidence among anti-police violence advocates that something tangible is being done in the way of police reform, but the probe at least indicates that police brutality against Black people in Louisiana isn’t being outright ignored.

If America expects protests and civil unrest over systemic racism in policing to end in any of our lifetimes, a lot more work needs to be done in investigating police departments across the country—and the investigations are still only a start.