At the Louisiana State Police press conference, Col. Davis spoke about reform measures (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)
Creating a more diverse workforce, increasing consequences for abuse of power and new implicit bias training are the main steps State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis is focusing on, he said at a Friday press conference, as the agency tries to regain the public’s trust after months of media reports alleging the State Police routinely ignore reports about white state troopers beating up Black people.
Davis appeared before the media on the same day that U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, called for the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a broader investigation into the Louisiana State Police, in a letter sent to the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
While there is already an ongoing federal investigation into the death of Ronald Greene –– a Black man who died in State Police custody in 2019 — and Louisiana State Police other alleged obstructions of justice, Carter wants the type of federal investigation that could result in a consent decree or other type of federal oversight for the agency. The Louisiana Legislature’s Black Caucus has called for that type of federal investigation already.
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, chair of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, said he was not impressed with Davis’ explanations at the conference.
“I don’t think that anything he said today would restore any type of trust in the agency,” James said.
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The Associated Press found at least a dozen cases over the last decade in which State Police allegedly ignored or concealed evidence of troopers using excessive force against members of the public. Most of the targeted people were Black, according to the Associated Press.
“The department has displayed consistent and blatant disregard for the rule of law and accountability practices regarding excessive use of force by police,” Carter said in a released statement. “It is clear that the LSP will not clean up its own house, and I have no faith they are capable of policing themselves.”
At the press conference Friday, Davis attempted to defend the agency’s approach to the controversial case of Greene. The agency insisted for over a year that Greene had died in a car crash, until reporting from the Associated Press, including the publication of unreleased body camera footage, showed troopers stunning, beating and dragging Greene the night of his arrest.
Davis said on Friday the state police investigation into Greene’s death was hindered because it could not compel former employees to testify.
Davis also said that in the police force’s examination of 10 years worth of data, only .052% of citizen encounters involved police officers using force. He acknowledged public concerns about transparency, but said too much transparency could hurt their investigations.
“[Being transparent] could have unintentional consequences that could gravely impact the outcome of those cases,” Davis said.
While new reform measures launched after October 2020 are geared toward increasing Louisiana State Police transparency and accountability, Davis did not go into many specifics. Implemented measures included banning chokeholds and banning the use of weapons on the head or neck area, along with a mandate to carry a less lethal option.
“I will not have anyone on our agency that is going to harm our communities,” Davis said.
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Other new policies include more accountability for wearing body cameras, mandated implicit bias training and de-escalation training for all personnel and the initiation of administrative investigations when there’s misconduct allegations. Davis said the force was also working on a program that would standardize the release of critical information to the public as soon as possible.
Some of these policies may now be required by new state laws. In response to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota — and concern over Greene’s death — the Legislative Black Caucus pushed through new policies for policing in Louisiana this year. James said the police reforms Davis mentioned mostly came about through legislative efforts.
“It’s not like they were thinking on their own that this is something that they should do,” James said. “They should have been enacting some of these things, but they’re only responding to what the legislature has done.”
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