Was it embarrassment over their ugly cop cars?
Were Baton Rouge's finest just having a bad hurricane-hair day?
Or are basic tenets of U.S. constitutional law just foreign concepts in America's next great banana republic?
Whatever it was that caused Baton Rouge cops to get so out of line in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that more than a few out-of-state counterparts recoiled in horror as they rode shotgun with the locals, apparently none of it was so horrible that official Baton Rouge couldn't offer up embarrassingly lame excuses. As only officials in banana republics can.
TAKE THESE incidents uncovered by The Advocate newspaper after a four-year legal battle to obtain reports filed with the Baton Rouge Police Department by officers from New Mexico and Michigan. Here's what police from New Mexico alleged:
New Mexico state police Agent Nathan Lucero said he saw “subjects being stopped for no reason, searches being performed with no probable cause and people’s civil rights being violated.”OR PERHAPS you could take a look at these eyewitness reports by police from Michigan on Katrina duty in Louisiana's capital city:
Lucero said he also “witnessed officers referring to African Americans as animals and that they needed to be beaten down.”
Lucero said one officer told him that after the hurricane, police had gone into black neighborhoods and “beaten them down.”
That officer, Lucero said, would point a spotlight in black people’s faces during the patrols and say: “What are you doing standing in the road? Are you stupid? Get out of the road.”
“The black civilians were on the sidewalks and were not bothering anyone,” Lucero added.
Lucero said police working in Tigerland near LSU, an area he described as “white and wealthy,” were much more congenial. The officers would say things like “Hello and how are you” or “Have a good night and be careful,” he said.
Lucero did not name any of the officers.
New Mexico state police Agent Patrick Oakley said Baton Rouge Police Officer Tim Browning used the term “heathens” to describe a group of black men they encountered.
“Officer Browning made contact with these subjects with no reasonable suspicion or probable cause, performed pat downs and extracted items from the pockets of these individuals,” Oakley said.
New Mexico state police Officer Gregory Hall said he rode with Baton Rouge Police Officer Chad King on two occasions.
“King is a good officer but seems to handle black people differently than he would a pretty Caucasian woman,” Hall wrote. “Each time Officer King would make contact with a Caucasian person he would be friendly and pleasant. But when he spoke to a black person he was very loud, rude and demeaning.”
Hall said that while he believes most of the Baton Rouge officers are good, he perceived a racial bias among many.
“I do feel that most of the night officers that I had contact with had some type of comment or attitude towards black people in general,” he said.
Michigan State Trooper Jeffrey Werda said officers offered to let him beat a prisoner as a thank you for helping out with relief efforts.AND YOU THOUGHT stuff like this only happened in the movies. Or in Juarez.
“I was told that I could go ahead and beat someone down or bitch slap them and they would do the report,” Werda said. “I was told this was my gift from them for helping with the hurricane relief efforts.”
Werda reported seeing several incidents of excessive force.
One man walking down a street ran into his house after seeing a patrol unit, Werda said. The Baton Rouge officer chased the man into the house and arrested him, then forced him onto the hood of the patrol unit, the trooper said.
“The officer then began telling him that the next time he runs from the police, he will get beat down,” Werda said.
The man complained his wrist was hurting, Werda said. Another Baton Rouge officer bent the man’s wrist and threatened to break it if he didn’t shut his mouth, Werda wrote.
Werda said he asked the man why he ran if he was not doing anything wrong, and the reply was that “he did not want to get his ass kicked by the police, as this has occurred to him before.”
In another incident, Werda said, police were called to a bar near LSU because of a fight. He said the fight was over and everything was calm when an officer approached a man and “suddenly hit the subject in the side of the head with his forearm and took him to the ground in a head lock. “
“I observed this subject the entire time and at no time did he pose as a threat or mouth off at the officers,” Werda said. “In fact, he was so intoxicated he could barely stand up on his own.”
Werda did not name the officers involved in any of the incidents he reported.
What in the world could the police chief say about his department in the wake of such allegations from sworn officers from two other states? Well, this:
Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff defends his department’s performance after Katrina, noting that the city was full of evacuees and rife with stories of looting and shooting in New Orleans.NO, I WOULDN'T believe this s*** either if I weren't from there. But really . . . believe it.
“We had a charge to hold the line and balance this city and keep it from being overrun and looted and fired upon,” he said.
He denied giving orders to run evacuees out of town, noting he had family members staying in his own home.
Asked why law enforcement officers from other states would lie about what they saw Baton Rouge police doing, LeDuff said he suspects the troopers wanted to be where the action was.
“Everybody who came here wanted to be in New Orleans where all of this was going on, to rescue, to stop the looting, to stop the people from shooting at helicopters,” he said. “I don’t think people wanted to come to Baton Rouge. We weren’t the story.”
Officialdom in Baton Rouge not only believes you, the rest of America, will buy the load they're trying to sell, but -- on some warped level --they actually believe it themselves. And except for the unfortunates who got their faces slammed into the hood of one of Baton Rouge's ugly-ass cop cars for no good reason, Louisianians will believe it, too.
After all, a state doesn't work its way to the top of all the bad lists and the bottom of all the good ones without being able to believe "as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Take Mayor-President Kip Holden, for example. Every morning, he gets up and tells himself that his stagnant, middling Southern capital is "America's next great city." This amid a crumbling school system, an astronomical murder rate, endemic poverty, crumbling infrastructure and an ongoing brain drain.
Then, after he tells himself that, he tells The Advocate this:
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden denied ordering police to run people out of town, though he acknowledged wanting them to be aggressive.YEAH, YOU RIGHT, CAP. It's the s***s when da slums a Noo Orluns escape, well . . . da slums a Noo Orluns.
“I was not going to let Baton Rouge be overrun by some people from New Orleans who were hell-bent on committing crimes,” he said in an interview last week.
He said his message to those “thugs who are robbing, raping and looting in New Orleans” was that he would provide them shelter, but “it will not be at the Red Cross — it’s going to be in jail.”
“If there’s a blame to be placed on aggressive enforcement, blame it on me,” he added.
If Holden had been any more proactive, he would have directed all the New Orleans-to-Baton Rouge vehicle traffic to facilities where the evacuees could take "showers."
But the bottom line you, the rest of America, need to remember is this: Both the mayor-president and the police chief are African-Americans. And when a city's black folk can be just as big a bunch of rednecks as your average Bubba. . . .