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Policing Troop F: Lawmakers Demand Accountability For State Police Responsible For The Death Of Ronald Greene

Matthew Ring

Lawmakers are demanding transparency and accountability in the Louisiana State Police investigation into the arrest of Ronald Greene, after the Associated Press reported that it obtained body camera video footage from May 10, 2019, of troopers tasing, choking, beating and dragging the 49-year-old Black man who died in their custody.

“We need a complete report of every single trooper that was on the scene [and] every single trooper that was in leadership at Troop F,” Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge said, referring to the troop that patrols Northwest Louisiana, where Greene was arrested. “We need to know where those individuals are now [and] if they’re still in positions of power. We need to know if they’re still on the street. I want to make sure that those folks are no longer in positions to do this again.”

Murky Disciplinary Details

When asked about disciplinary actions against troopers named in previous reporting, a representative for Louisiana State Police, Lt. Melissa Matey, referred New Orleans Public Radio to a statement that features links to all of the body camera video associated with Robert Greene’s arrest. The law enforcement agency released the footage on May 21, following the AP’s report.

The footage shows at least six troopers on the scene, including Lt. John Clary, the officer in charge. On Monday, the AP reported that Clary denied having body camera video footage of the incident for almost two years. Clary’s footage was recovered in April.

State Police’s statement includes disciplinary details for three troopers.

In September, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, who wrote an initial crash report stating that Greene died of a car accident after leading troopers on a lengthy high-speed chase, was notified that he would be fired. Hours later he died in a single-car traffic accident.

In October, the AP reported that in audio from Hollingsworth’s body camera, the officer can be heard recounting the Ronald Greene arrest, saying, “I beat the ever-living f *** out of him.”

Another trooper, Dakota DeMoss, who initiated Greene’s arrest, was arrested in March in connection to the May 2020 violent arrest of another Black man, Antonio Harris. In a group text, DeMoss and two other officers joked about beating Harris. For Greene’s arrest, DeMoss received a letter of counseling and a letter of reprimand. He’s received notice that the agency intends to fire him and is on leave until the investigation into Harris’ arrest is completed.

The third trooper, Kory York — who can be seen in body camera footage dragging Greene several feet while he is face-down and handcuffed by shackles attached to his ankles — received violations for “treatment of prisoner in custody” and “body-worn camera/in-car camera system activation,” and was suspended without pay for 50 hours.

James called York’s suspension “laughable,” adding, “I need to know if he’s still patrolling the streets.”

Matey confirmed that York remains on full active duty, pending the outcome of the FBI investigation and the State Police review. Clary, the officer in charge who withheld his body camera footage, is also on full active duty, according to Matey.

“There should be no mechanism in place for somebody to be able to conceal body camera footage,” James said after learning that Clary denied having footage. “It should automatically be downloaded and reviewed by someone at State Police.”

Transparency As a Path to Healing

In a statement Monday, State Rep. Sam Jenkins from Northwest Louisiana made a plea for the Federal Bureau of Investigations to update the public on its probe into Greene’s arrest and demanded that the State Police release its findings in their entirety once the local investigation is completed.

“The people of Louisiana need Mr. Greene’s death to be investigated in the full light of sunshine,” Jenkins said. “ … There is no other way for our state to heal.”

Thus far the case has been plagued by allegations of a major attempt to conceal evidence.

James suggested that Col. Lamar Davis, who took over leadership of the State Police in October, “inherited” the cover-up issue.

“I think that the corruption is so deep in the State Police that I don't even know if he even knows where to even start,” James said.

He said he and other lawmakers may seek a legislative hearing to review the State Police and hinted that a federal intervention, beyond the FBI’s investigation, may be necessary.

Greene Case Could Lead to Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

James said he is hopeful that the recently released details of Greene’s arrest might bolster support for a bill sponsored by Rep. Edmond Jordan that would remove qualified immunity for any law enforcement officer found guilty of violating someone’s constitutional rights. The bill narrowly passed in the House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote in the state Senate.

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, who represents part of Southeast Louisiana, issued a statement on the video footage of Greene’s death over the weekend. In it he pushed for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes a limit on qualified immunity and restrictions on types of use of force including chokeholds.

“We can never heal the family’s sorrow or bring back Ronald Greene, but we can, and must, put policies in place to prevent this sad and far too often abuse of power from occurring on our streets,” Carter said.

President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass a criminal justice reform law by May 25, the anniversary of George Floyd’s death. Lawmakers did not meet that deadline.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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