Unearthed videos show pattern of violence by Louisiana state police

In one long-buried video, bianco Louisiana state police troopers can be seen slamming a Black man against a police cruiser after finding marijuana in his car, throwing him to the ground and repeatedly punching him – all while he is handcuffed.

In another, a white trooper pummels a Black man at a traffic stop 18 times with a flashlight, leaving him with a broken jaw, broken ribs and a gash to his head. That footage was mislabeled and it took 536 days and a lawsuit for police to look into it.

And yet another video shows a white trooper coldcocking a Hispanic drug trafficking suspect as he stood calmly by the highway, an unprovoked attack never mentioned in any report and only investigated when the footage was discovered by an outraged federal judge.

As the Louisiana state police reel from the fallout of the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene – a case blown open this year by long-withheld video of troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black motorist – an Associated Press investigation has revealed it is part of a pattern of violence kept shrouded in secrecy.

An AP review of internal investigative records and newly obtained videos identified at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which Louisiana state police troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

AP’s review – coming amid a widening federal investigation into state police misconduct – found troopers have made a habit of turning off or muting body cameras during pursuits. When footage is recorded, the agency routinely refuses to release it. And a recently retired supervisor who oversaw a particularly violent clique of troopers told internal investigators this year it was his “common practice” to rubber-stamp officers’ use-of-force reports without reviewing body-camera video.

In some cases, troopers omitted uses of force such as blows to the head from official reports, and in others troopers sought to justify their actions by falsely claiming suspects were violent, resisting or escaping.

Most of those beaten in the cases AP found were Black, in keeping with the agency’s own tally that 67% of its uses of force in recent years have targeted Black people – double the percentage of the state’s Black population.

The revelations come as civil rights and Black leaders urge the US. Department of Justice to launch a broader, “pattern and practice” investigation into potential systemic racial profiling by the overwhelmingly white state police.

Col Lamar Davis, the state police superintendent, said in a statement that the agency has completely revised its excessive force policies and practices and implemented numerous reforms in the 11 months since he took office.

Davis said he did not believe a federal pattern and practice investigation is needed “at this time”. The justice department did not answer questions about whether it was considering one.

The state police have been under intense scrutiny since May when the AP published previously unreleased body camera footage of Greene’s 10 Maggio 2019, arrest at the end of a high-speed chase near Monroe. It showed white troopers stunning, beating and dragging Greene as he pleaded for mercy. It was a jarring rush of images in a death that troopers initially blamed on a car crash and that took 474 days to prompt an internal investigation.

Recently, a federal investigation into Greene’s death was broadened to include allegations of obstruction of justice involving state police brass. Among the incidents now under scrutiny is the shutdown of a secret panel state police set up to investigate possible systemic abuse of Black motorists.

The panel had been focused on reviewing thousands of hours of body-camera footage from about a dozen specific troopers in northern Louisiana’s Troop F. But according to several people familiar with the matter who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, the panel was abruptly disbanded in July after just a few months’ work following leaks about its existence. State police did not immediately act on the panel’s recommendations, but Davis said the agency had since referred some of the problematic incidents to internal investigators.

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