DOJ Opens Civil Rights Investigation Into Louisiana State Police, Alleges ‘Excessive Force’ Against Racial Minorities

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is opening an investigation into the Louisiana State Police for alleged racially discriminatory practices, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said Thursday.

The Louisiana state legislature continues to investigate the 2019 death of Ronald Greene in police custody. Clarke mentioned Greene’s death during her press conference, noting that his death was one of several instances in which state police were accused of using excessive force. The investigation into the Louisiana State Police is the fifth “pattern or practice” investigation of Joe Biden’s presidency, compared to 23 during the Obama administration and one during the Trump administration, according to the American Bar Association.

“Our investigation will be thorough and comprehensive. This marks the first state-wide pattern or pattern investigation of a law enforcement agency that the Justice Department has opened in more than two decades,” Clarke said.

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, we find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and engages in racially discriminatory policing against Black residents and other people of color,” she continued.

Clarke claimed that her office received information about the repeated use of excessive force during routine traffic stops. Greene, who died after being repeatedly punched and tased in the head, was pulled over after allegedly failing to pull over for a traffic stop. Police later told his family that he died after driving into a tree.

She added that the federal investigation into Greene’s death is “separate” from the “pattern or practice” investigation.

An Associated Press investigation identified twelve instances in which Louisiana State Police troopers and their superiors covered up alleged brutality, including one in which an officer punched a handcuffed man accused of possessing a small amount of marijuana. (RELATED: Former Louisiana Cop Charged After Beating Black Man With Flashlight)

The Justice Department under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch commonly used “pattern or practice” investigations to force local police departments into consent decrees. Under the decrees, departments avoided federal civil rights lawsuits and were not required to admit wrongdoing, but often were required to overhaul policing practices in ways that were unpopular with local elected officials and residents.

Several cities that have since suffered from major violent crime spikes, including Seattle and Baltimore, entered into consent decrees with the Obama administration. Seattle’s consent decree, agreed to in 2012, included training on implicit bias related to gender and race.