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Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, at lectern, answers questions in Memorial Hall at the State Capital Building, as members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to address ongoing controversies with the Louisiana State Police and the next steps to restore public trust in the agency Tuesday July 6, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

The most recent and very controversial death at the hands of the Louisiana State Police is that of Ronald Greene, a West Monroe Black barber who was stopped by officers from Monroe’s Troop F during a traffic stop and ended up battered, bruised and dead in 2019. The initial State Police report said he died as the result of a car crash. Later, video made it obvious that Greene had been beaten by officers.

The FBI has asked for a re-evaluation of the autopsy and there seems little doubt that it will not conclude that a modest car wreck caused his death.

We understand that a thorough federal investigation takes time, and the Greene case is — finally — under federal review. We want the U.S. Justice Department to do its best work and provide a well-documented report about what happened in Greene’s case. Based on what has been reported by The Associated Press, this newspaper and others, we find it hard to believe such an investigation will result in a report without consequences. But so egregious is the Greene case that it is painful to wait.

That’s one reason the ACLU of Louisiana, the Urban League of Louisiana, and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus have all asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for a federal investigation of the entire Louisiana State Police operation. Both have called for a "pattern or practice investigation" into state trooper misconduct. Both are tired of waiting for action.

A Justice Department review of operations would be wider in scope than the Greene investigation but might also come up with paths forward for LSP to do a better job.

The ACLU letter provides support for such a review by referencing Troop F-specific incidents — Ronald Greene's death in May 2019, and the brutal beatings of Aaron Bowman two weeks later and Antonio Harris in May 2020. Each man was unarmed.

With searing words, Alanah Odoms, the Louisiana ACLU executive director, said the State Police have lost the confidence of many. “The people of Louisiana do not trust the Louisiana State Police — we don’t trust them to protect all citizens, nor to treat Black people with dignity and respect,” she said in a statement issued at the time of the June request sent to the Justice Department. She added, “we certainly cannot trust that LSP is capable of performing impartial and thorough investigations into matters which involve their own misconduct.”

During a news conference in the State Capitol last week, state Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge, who leads the Black legislators’ group, said the Justice Department request for a wider probe is necessary. “I think we owe it to the people of our great state to have the federal government come in and do this full-scale top-to-bottom patterns and practices investigation to make sure what we are seeing happening at State Police is eradicated,” he said.

We agree with the ACLU and the Black legislators. The federal investigators should continue their investigation into the Greene death. A full-scale federal investigation into the practices at State Police should start promptly. Louisiana residents need nothing less than appropriate discipline of abusive officers, and an agency better positioned to earn our respect and trust.