Following Use Of Force Footage Leaks, Louisiana State Police Head Outlines Agency Changes
One day after the Associated Press published a report revealing a pattern of brutality and secrecy among the Louisiana State Police’s troopers, the agency’s newly appointed superintendent outlined reforms implemented over several months during a press conference Friday.
Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis, appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in October, addressed issues of transparency, specifically concerning body camera footage releases, and diversity within the State Police.
A review of internal investigative records and videos that the AP obtained revealed that Troopers often turned off or muted body-worn cameras during stops. The news report showed footage from multiple apprehensions in which troopers pulled suspects by their hair and slammed them to the ground or into patrol cars. It showed footage from the 2019 arrest of motorist Ronald Green who died in State Police custody after Troopers in Northeastern Louisiana’s Troop F tased, beat and dragged him and left him in the prone position for more than nine minutes.
According to the report, Capt. John Peters, who supervised Troop F admitted to approving troopers’ use-of-force reports without looking at body-camera footage.
The Ronald Green case prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigations to launch a probe and the State Police to create a “secret panel” to review body-worn camera footage to ascertain whether Troopers targeted Black motorists for abuse.
It found that 67% of the agency’s use of force incidents have been against Black people. The AP reported that the secret panel was recently shut down after a few months of being in operation.
“I do not condone any form of excessive force nor will I tolerate this type of behavior in our agency,” Davis said at the press conference.
Davis addressed transparency, saying, “there’s been a lot of heartburn with regards to our agency not releasing body worn camera footage and other evidence.”
He said releasing body camera footage prematurely could have a negative impact on investigations and could harm the justice that the agency is seeking. He added it could also influence the jury pool if criminal charges are brought against an officer.
Changes that Davis outlines included diversifying State Police leadership.
“We have a very diverse state and that diversity for me means value added,” he said, adding that he intends to diversify the whole agency and is focused on recruitment.
According to Davis, the agency has also implemented a duty to intervene policy, requiring troopers, regardless of rank to step in when they witness another officer using excessive force; it has expanded its use of force policy to ban chokeholds and mandate the use of less than lethal weapons; it has expanded training to include implicit bias training; and it has created a special investigative unit to look into officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.
When it comes to accountability, Davis said he has overseen the arrest of four troopers and has investigated and terminated several others.
“I will not have anyone on our agency that is going to harm our communities, plain and simple … the buck stops with me,” he said.
Despite the Associated Press revealing that the supervising officer during Ronald Green’s arrest, Lt. John Clary, had withheld body-worn camera footage of the incident for nearly two years, Davis said the investigation’s “finding [were] not sustained to prove or disprove that Lt. Clary intended to withhold evidence.”