Louisiana State Police Racial Injustice: How Accountability Might Be the Best Defense

Courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer (Flickr CC0)

Louisiana State Police is under fire for racial profiling and targeting Black drivers. Last year, Louisiana State Police released a report claiming their officers were more likely to search black or Hispanic drivers than white drivers.

The Louisiana criminal justice system has a lot of injustice. Institutional trust has suffered as the public becomes more aware of police brutality and racial profiling thanks to social media. Criminal justice professionals who dedicate their careers to this field are constantly searching for ways to restore that trust and eliminate racial injustice where they find it.

Innocent people spending time behind bars is one of the worst forms of injustice. Unfortunately, it happens all too often across all branches of law enforcement. In response to accusations of unfair treatment based on race, many departments have implemented policies and procedures to reduce bias and protect officers from false accusations. However, many feel these changes are not going far enough toward fixing the problem.

For anyone thinking about a career in law enforcement at the Louisiana State Police, be aware of the current state of affairs regarding racial injustice. This article will cover the processes and accountability of the citizen’s best defense when working there.

However, this April, it revealed that Louisiana State Police had been hiding an audit from the public, which showed that African-American and Hispanic drivers are searched more frequently than white drivers. It also said troopers are more likely to check the IDs of non-white drivers.

In response, several state legislators have proposed bills requiring specific standards for traffic stops and independent monitoring agencies to prevent racial profiling.

In recent years, Louisiana State Police departments have come under increased scrutiny concerning the fairness and impartiality of their officers. Distrust is especially prevalent in communities of color partially due to several high-profile incidents that occurred in recent years involving police officers shooting and killing innocent black men. The shooting and killing of the 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 led to widespread protests and sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

In response to these events, many people wonder whether there is a racial bias among law enforcement officers and, if so, how widespread it might be.

Courtesy of Tim Dennell (Flickr CC0)

After the U.S. Department of Justice closed its two-year investigation into the Civil Rights Division of the Louisiana State Police, many people might assume that the problems that plagued law enforcement in the state are over. But in reality, the DOJ’s investigation is still underway and has left a complicated legacy behind it. There are more than 1,000 pages of documents from that investigation and testimony by former top Louisiana State Police officials to help people understand what happened at this agency.

People know racial profiling, criminal record checks for employment discrimination against minorities, unlicensed and unqualified employees operating with police powers, and unconstitutional practices and procedures involving stops, searches, and seizures without legal justification.

What People Know So Far About Louisiana State Police Racial Injustice

The U.S. Department of Justice’s findings confirmed a long-standing pattern of racial profiling and other forms of racial discrimination within the ranks of the Louisiana State Police. In parts of the state, African-Americans were more likely to be searched than Caucasians, while in other areas, Hispanics were nearly twice as likely to be stopped as whites. Although the Louisiana State Police arrested Black people twice as much as white people, they were three times less likely to have contraband than white people.

Disproportionate Force Against Black People

The DOJ investigation also found that Black people were disproportionately subjected to excessive force by Louisiana State Police officers. Internal complaints from the public indicate that from 2010 to 2016, reported were 223 incidents of excessive force. Of those, only five related to white suspects. The remainder involved African-Americans, many of whom were innocent. The report also acknowledged that the LSP might have been racially profiling by targeting Black drivers for traffic stops because they could not meet the “quotas” set by supervisors at specific patrol zones. The LSP should ticket drivers for speeding and other violations, not stop drivers based on their race or ethnicity.

How Can Citizens Fight Racial Injustice as an LSP Trooper?

As a member of the Louisiana State Police, citizens can fight against the racial injustices within the department by taking advantage of the LSP’s new policies to address racism and discriminatory practices. That includes spending extra time with minority communities to build trust and relationships with residents, as well as offering sensitivity and cultural awareness training to help officers understand their role as public servants and protectors of the people of Louisiana. By working to create a more equitable and just society, people can help repair the damage that these types of practices have caused while also setting the department up for success in the future.

Final Thoughts

The Louisiana State Police is still changing its culture to be more inclusive and welcoming to all people. That process is not going to happen overnight, but it is happening. That means increased opportunities for good jobs and careers in law enforcement for all people, regardless of their backgrounds. To that end, the Louisiana State Police is committed to recruiting people from all walks of life, including people of color.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson


AP News:
Justice Department opens probe into Louisiana State Police; by Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg
The Washington Post: Justice Department opens probe into Louisiana State Police
CBS News: Justice Department opens civil rights probe into Louisiana State Police

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Tim Dennell’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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