AP: Use of slurs not 'isolated' at Louisiana State Police
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A black Louisiana State Police soldier was on hiatus when his cell phone buzzed with an unusual voice message. It was from a white colleague who didn't know his Apple Watch had picked it up and who blurted out the black soldier's name, followed by a searing racist arc.
"F ----- n ----, what did you expect?"
That unguarded moment, broadcast in some sort of pocket poll, sparked an internal investigation by Louisiana's top law enforcement agency that remained under lock and key for three years before a local television station reported last month that the white soldier hadn't even been reprimanded for the racist recording .
"I believe this is an isolated incident and I have great faith in the men and women who serve in the Louisiana State Police," said the agency's outgoing chief Colonel Kevin Reeves, responding to the controversy.
However, an Associated Press review of hundreds of state police records over a three-year period revealed at least a dozen other cases of employees sharing racist emails on their official accounts with subject lines such as “PROUD TO BE WHITE” or humiliated minority peers Names like "Hershey's Kiss", "Django" and "Egg Roll".
"The state police have a real, deeply ingrained problem of racism," said David Lanser, a New Orleans attorney with the William Most law firm, who received the records and emails in 2018 through a targeted public record request for emails containing racist content Language. "Rejecting the existence of systemic and individual racism in the LSP will only serve to perpetuate the grave and often tragic impact on the people of Louisiana."
Reeves, who abruptly retired this week amid a series of controversies over the race, did not respond to a detailed request for comment. A spokesman for the state police only said that "these incidents have already been addressed by the agency".
On Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards named a Black State Police captain, Lamar Davis, to replace Reeves, who is white.
Law enforcement misconduct - particularly cases of bias - has been given new scrutiny in the face of the racist reckoning that has gripped the country following the murder of George Floyd.
In Louisiana, racist tensions have risen in recent months over a federal civil rights investigation into the unexplained death of Ronald Greene, a black motorist who was detained near Monroe after a state police chase last year. Reeves has been criticized for his secret handling of the case. He waited 474 days to open an internal probe and refused to post a body cam video which, according to those who saw it, shows soldiers beating, choking and pulling Greene while calling him " Son of a b ----. "
State police records received from the AP showed that Reeves also refused to discipline another state force officer and long-time administrative assistant last year after it was discovered that they had openly forwarded racist emails from her account, including a five-sided chain mail with entitled "BE PROUD TO BE WHITE," which claims that white Americans have "LOST most of OUR RIGHTS," and addresses the treatment of minorities by law enforcement agencies. The email asked why "only white racists can be" and urged recipients to be "proud enough to forward it".
A state police attorney said the emails were several years old when they emerged and there have been "no complaints since" against any employee.
Other records obtained from AP revealed a pattern of racist statements made by white soldiers - for example, that a black soldier looked like a "monkey" in his uniform.
A state police captain, whose name was mentioned on the records, accused a black subordinate of lying after telling investigators that he was insulted by his colleagues who repeated him in a film about a fictional freed slave, "Django." "called. The state police determined that the nickname "should not be racially derogatory".
The same internal investigation looked at the use of the term "oreo" to describe the reluctance of white soldiers to work alone with two black colleagues.
And in another racist exchange, a state police sergeant was accused of belittling a black colleague when a child asked a group of soldiers in a restaurant why they had their patrol car idling in the parking lot with the air conditioning on.
"Didn't you see Hershey's kiss when you were left in the sun?" The sergeant reportedly answered.
The records do not indicate whether soldiers were disciplined in these incidents.
Eugene Collins, president of the NAACP's Baton Rouge branch, said the records show that "the state's leading law enforcement agency is systemically racist on several levels".
"This shouldn't exist in 2020," said Collins. "We very much hope that the Department of Justice will investigate this agency for other possible violations of civil rights."
A look under the hoods of other US law enforcement agencies would reveal "if undocumented e-mail, a similar mindset portrayed in everyday conversations between officers," said Michael Jenkins, a law enforcement expert who teaches criminal justice at the University of Scranton. "Unfortunately, I think this meets a bigger problem in policing that is still showing its face."
In the insane Apple Watch pocket election incident in 2017, Trooper Gus McKay told investigators "the stars couldn't have been lined up worse."
"It would be like accidentally sending someone a picture of my naked wife," McKay is quoted as saying, telling investigators in the state police records. "It shouldn't get out."
McKay told investigators that he was sitting at his dining table with his wife and grandfather preparing to investigate a traffic accident when he used the arch in relation to a white cousin unable to pay his bills.
McKay later asked to meet the black coworker in person and told investigators that he had "dated a black girl in college" and had black roommates. "I am the least likely person who has ever been involved in this matter because it means nothing to me."
The black soldier who received the tape and whose name was edited on the documents told investigators that he was insulted by the bow despite believing McKay's explanation.
"I was more offended that you sat around with your family and talked that way," the soldier said of McKay.
A week before the incident, he said he had eaten at a restaurant with McKay. "After that, fast forward, you sit around and have this conversation, it's like, damn it! Why does (McKay's wife) accept you talking like that? Why isn't she mad at you when you use the word?"
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