By A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
On Sunday, the Baton Rouge Advocate published a
damning exposé detailing allegations of misconduct by Baton Rouge
police officers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
After a four-year legal battle, the paper finally got a cache of police
department documents describing a pattern of racist and abusive behavior
by Baton Rouge officers in the days after the storm ravaged the Gulf
coast. The cops are accused of using demeaning language; routinely
harassing African Americans; physically abusing citizens; and seeking to
"make life rough for New Orleans evacuees so they would leave town,"
according to the Advocate, which has posted the documents online.
Here's the twist: The accusations were made by other cops, 55 state
troopers from New Mexico and Michigan who had been sent to Baton Rouge
to assist with post-storm policing. The out-of-state cops were yanked
out of Baton Rouge after only two days because of their concerns about
The visiting officers said Baton Rouge cops referred to African
Americans as "heathens" and "animals" that "needed to be beaten down."
In response to the newspaper's questions, Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff
LeDuff said some of the allegations against his officers were "maybe
blown out of proportion." He also said his department had investigated
the incidents and dealt with any policy violations uncovered.
Five years after the hurricane, controversy about police tactics in the
aftermath of the disaster continues to swirl. In recent weeks, two
New Orleans cops have pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection
to high-profile shootings on the Danziger
Bridge. Federal agents are investigating four other police shooting
incidents from the time period.