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Ronald Greene’s mother demands lawmakers hold State Police accountable for son's death

 The Louisiana State Capitol. March 2021.
Phoebe Jones
The Louisiana State Capitol. March 2021.

Louisiana state lawmakers and family members of individuals who died in Louisiana State Police custody expressed growing frustration with the agency’s public overtures about increasing transparency and accountability for bad actors within their ranks.

Mona Hardin, the mother of Ronald Greene, the Black motorist who died in 2019 after state troopers tazed, beat, shackled and dragged him during his arrest, spoke in front of the Louisiana Senate’s newly-formed Select Committee on State Police Oversight on Monday and said her family was vexed at the agency’s lack of transparency surrounding the circumstances of her son’s death and the subsequent investigation of officers' use of force.

State Police originally said Greene died from injuries he sustained in a car accident at the end of a high-speed chase, but a slow trickle of information to local civil rights groups and journalists painted a different picture. Eventually, body camera footage of troopers’ brutal beating of Greene that leaked to the Associated Press captured national headlines and prompted an FBI probe into Greene’s death.

Hardin said Monday during the committee’s second meeting that even with those videos in the public eye, Louisiana State Police have moved too slowly in resolving her son’s case.

“What does it take for the state of Louisiana to recognize the murder of a man?” Hardin asked. “What does it take to get answers for why my son was killed… It falls on those governing the state troopers of Louisiana… the answers are right here.”

At times during the hearing, state lawmakers criticized LSP’s top brass for failing to provide comprehensive data on the number of use of force complaints filed against state troopers and their unwillingness to compel LSP employees to participate in the public discussion.

Of the four specific LSP employees the committee asked to appear, only one participated in Monday’s hearing.

Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge) criticized Col. Lamar Davis, head of the Louisiana State Police, for not ensuring that his employees attended the meeting.

"When the Senate requests employees of the state to attend a hearing, the Senate expects them to show up," Fields said. "Don't disrespect this committee."

The one LSP employee who did answer the committee’s request — Sgt. Albert Paxton, a detective involved in the early investigation into Ronald Greene’s death — offered testimony that contradicted LSP leaders’ assertion that superior officers strictly followed agency protocols when handling allegations of trooper misconduct.

In a lengthy question and answer session with state senators, Paxton said his superiors at times ignored recommendations he made after completing internal affairs investigations, but per the direction of a Louisiana State Policy attorney, Paxton did not specify in which investigation that occurred.

Paxton also said the agency’s protocols allowed troopers to conceal possibly incriminating body camera footage from internal affairs investigations.

At other times, state police officials’ inability to provide specific data on the number of use of force complaints filed specifically against state troopers, drawing the ire of state senators

The clear disconnect between LSP leadership, their rank-and-file employees and the state officials tasked with overseeing the agency upset Hardin, a mother who just wanted justice for her son.

“All I can say is everyone who’s had their hands on this — what happened to my son — needs to be held accountable,” Hardin said. “I don’t care what badge you wear, what three-piece suit you’ve been walking in, no one is above the law.”

The committee meeting can be watched here.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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