In Louisiana, a father, a son and a culture of police abuse | national news

MONROE, Louisiana (AP) – Growing up in the pine forests of northern Louisiana, where courtyards were dotted with crosses and sometimes Confederate flags, Jacob Brown grew up hunting, fishing and dreamed of becoming a soldier. State.

But weeks after arriving at the Louisiana State Police Training Academy in Baton Rouge, instructors identified Brown as a problem. One wrote that he was an arrogant and chronic rule breaker with “toxic” character traits that should disqualify him from ever joining the elite law enforcement agency of the United States. State.

Luckily for Brown, the State Police was known as a place where those you knew often got the better of what you did, and where most of the introductory talk ended up with a simple question: who is your father. ?

Jacob Brown is the son of Bob Brown, then a senior state police officer, who would become the deputy commander despite being reprimanded years earlier for calling his black colleagues the n-word and hanging a Confederate flag. in his office. And the son would not only become a “former hire” but prove his instructors were prophetic by becoming one of the state’s most violent soldiers, reserving most of his punches, flashlights, and guns. kicking black drivers he stopped along soybean and cotton fields near where he grew up.

When friends and colleagues asked Bob Brown how his firstborn was doing as a soldier, he responded with seemingly innocuous boast:

“He’s hitting heads.

The Browns’ story is woven throughout the recent history of the Louisiana State Police and represents what dozens of current and former soldiers described to The Associated Press as a culture of impunity, nepotism. and, in some cases, outright racism.

It illustrates the dynamic that made the agency the focus of a sprawling federal investigation that initially examined the 2019 murderous arrest of black motorist Ronald Greene and has since expanded to include a slew of other cases. – several involving Jacob Brown – in which soldiers are accused of beatings and cover-ups, even when they are filmed.

“If you’re part of the good old system, you can’t do anything wrong,” said Carl Cavalier, a black state soldier who was recently fired in part for criticizing the agency’s handling of cases. brutality.

It is an us versus them culture, they say, in which many soldiers and superiors are more interested in covering themselves up than respecting the image of honor, duty, courage and “doing what is right.” of the agency.

It’s a culture in which soldiers feel so isolated from any scrutiny that they can joke about their brutality, including texting each other pictures of a beaten and bloodied suspect with the joke “he wouldn’t. had to resist “.

And it’s a culture in which 67% of the use of force by soldiers in recent years has targeted black people – double the percentage of the state’s black population.

“There is a corruption that allows state police franks to kind of do whatever they want,” said W. Lloyd Grafton, a use of force expert who consults on the civil case. of the Greene family and served on Louisiana. State Police Commission. “No one holds them responsible.”

A potential Louisiana State Police calculation came in the wake of Greene’s death on a rural road near Monroe on May 10, 2019 – a death soldier originally blamed in a car crash at the end of a high speed chase.

State police later admitted Greene was involved in a “fight” with soldiers, but Gov. John Bel Edwards officials refused for more than two years to publicly release the body camera video. When it was finally released by the AP this spring, footage showed white soldiers invading Greene’s car, stunning him, punching him and dragging him by his ankle chains, even as he appeared to surrender. , lamenting: “I am your brother!” I’m scared, I’m scared!

Fallout led the federal government to examine not only the soldiers, but also to determine if the top brass obstructed justice to protect them.

Greene’s death was also among at least a dozen cases over the past decade identified by the PA in which state soldiers or their bosses ignored or withheld evidence of beatings, deflected blame and hampered efforts to eliminate misconduct.

Many have implicated Jacob Brown. In one long-deleted video he can be seen hitting a black motorist with a flashlight, in another he slams a black motorist in a police car, and in yet another Brown and other soldiers beat a man black and hoist him to his feet in his dreadlocks.

“It’s no different from organized crime,” said John Winzer, Greene’s nephew. “They stick together. They eat together and ride at night together. And s — as it happens.

Even the agency’s superintendent admitted that the state police had lost public trust, in part due to an “old-fashioned culture” in parishes in northern Louisiana in which some soldiers are conditioned. to punish anyone who disrespects the badge.

“It’s uncomfortable to hear, ‘You are bullies.’ It’s uncomfortable to hear: “We thought you were all better than that,” said Col. Lamar Davis, a veteran Black Trooper recruited a year ago as a reformer.

Davis reorganized his staff, revised use of force policies, and required all soldiers to undergo inherent bias training. But he acknowledged that this may not be enough to avoid growing calls for an investigation by the US Department of Justice into “models and practices” of potential racial profiling.

Davis also told AP he still doesn’t have a clear idea of ​​the pervasiveness of excessive force among his officers. In part, that’s because supervisors haven’t reviewed thousands of hours of body camera footage for years.

When asked if he was convinced that there was not yet another case of Ronald Greene that state police officials did not yet know about, Davis did not hesitate.

“No, I am not,” he said. “We haven’t watched all of the videos.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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