The federal government is conducting a broad investigation into the Louisiana State Police after a series of reports by the Associated Press revealed persistent patterns of violence and abuse by officers—mostly directed against Black people. The latest report, by Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg, sheds light on a series of videos the agency tried to conceal from the public, showing officers engaging in often extreme violence against mostly Black and brown men, many of whom appear to have been stopped for traffic violations. Aside from withholding video, the AP investigation found that agency leaders and officers routinely tried to conceal their behavior from the public:
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 that it was his “common practice” to rubber-stamp officers’ use-of-force reports without reviewing body-camera video.
As the AP’s reporting and LSP’s own records make clear, violent force is disproportionately used against Black Louisianans:
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. AP reporting revealed that a secret panel the state police set up this year to determine whether troopers systematically abused Black motorists was just as secretly shut down, leaving the agency blind to potential misconduct… “These things are racially motivated,” said Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “It doesn’t seem you could have this level of criminality going on without it being something much more sinister.”
Missing detention center youth
Hurricane Ida intensified rapidly after entering the Gulf of Mexico, forcing families and institutions across South Louisiana to make quick decisions about whether to evacuate or shelter in place. But, as Rachel Mipro reports for the Louisiana Illuminator, many of the state’s juvenile detention facilities failed to notify families or their lawyers of where they were relocating the children in their care. Now, public defenders are searching for their clients:
“I don’t know who, if anyone, was told about their ultimate destinations,” (deputy public defender Richard) Pittman (of the Louisiana Public Defender Board) said. “My people in St. Bernard did not know what happened to those kids, and I still don’t know where those kids are. And I don’t know how many of them there are because there’s no centralized place where that information is kept in anything like real time.”
Many advocates are concerned about the mental toll this will take on the young people who were moved:
“Prisons are traumatizing places for children to be in the best of times, let alone during a crisis like Hurricane Ida,” Rachel Gassert, policy director for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights said in a statement. “Some of the evacuated youth cannot talk to their families and may not even know where their families are. Education is virtually non-existent and programming is limited. That’s not a rehabilitative environment.”
Louisiana once again the world’s most incarcerated place
A new report by Emily Widra and Tiana Herring of the Prison Policy Initiative, a criminal justice-focused research and advocacy organization, finds that – despite recent reforms – Louisiana is once again the most heavily incarcerated state in the nation:
Louisiana once again has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., unseating Oklahoma to return to its long-held position as “the world’s prison capital.” By comparison, states like New York and Massachusetts appear progressive, but even these states lock people up at higher rates than nearly every other country on earth. Compared to the rest of the world, every U.S. state relies too heavily on prisons and jails to respond to crime.
America locks up more people, per capita, than the rest of the world, despite having relatively low levels of violent crime. So being first in the country means being first in the world.
Biden announces national vaccine and testing requirements
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced an expansive set of rules that will require large employers to offer paid leave to enable employees to get vaccinated and to mandate weekly testing requirements for employees who decline the vaccine. As Rachel Siegel and Eli Rosenberg write for the Washington Post, this represents the most aggressive actions the Biden administration has taken in response to Covid since taking office:
Companies that ignore the policy could face penalties of up to $14,000 for each violation, according to a senior administration official. Also, companies would be required to give workers paid time off to get the vaccine. The employer mandates, which the White House estimates could reach as many as 80 million people, or two-thirds of U.S. workers, would be the most extensive government intervention into private companies and employer practices since the pandemic began.
Number of the Day
67% – Proportion of Louisiana State Police uses of force that were against Black people—more than double the share of Louisiana’s population that is Black (Source: The Associated Press)