Friday, March 26, 2010

As feds move in, snitches get . . . sued?

If not for the tireless efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, Louisiana would. . . .

Sorry, finishing that lede would take my imagination to places no man's imagination should have to go. The U.S. State Department would have to issue urgent "travel advisories."

So, without scaring ourselves by speculating on a Gret Stet without ongoing, massive intervention by the feds, let's just say the dance card of Justice lawyers and FBI agents just picked up one more two-step. And it all has to do with the "proactive policing" Baton Rouge cops engaged in after Hurricane Katrina.

NATURALLY, the locals have taken offense at the offense taken by New Mexico and Michigan troopers over Baton Rouge cops' "law enforcement" practices after the storm, accounts of which -- more than four years later -- have led to the federal civil-rights investigation. Today's story in The Advocate has this choice passage:
Asked why law enforcement officers from other states would lie about what they saw Baton Rouge police doing, LeDuff has 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 has said. “I don’t think people wanted to come to Baton Rouge. We weren’t the story.

Cpl. Cleveland Thomas, one of the officers disciplined because of the troopers’ complaints, told Police Department investigators the allegations lodged against him were false and the New Mexico officer made them because he was “scared and wanted to go home.”

Olson, the New Mexico spokesman, said Thursday he found the comments in the newspaper’s story “very disturbing” and “that clearly is not the case.”

He said his officers volunteered to leave their families and jobs to come help the people of Louisiana and that “it’s difficult when baseless accusations like that are made.”

Olson said he hopes the U.S. Justice Department has a “thorough and successful” investigation.

He added he’s heard from various Baton Rouge media outlets that the Baton Rouge Union of Police Local 237 is considering filing a lawsuit against his agency because of the complaints it filed against the Police Department.

Chris Stewart, president of the police union, said during the March 24 “Jim Engster Show” on WRKF radio that the union is “researching every possible avenue that we can pursue in order to clear the names of our officers.”

“If it involves a lawsuit, then we are going to do that,” Stewart said on the radio show. “We are waiting now for our attorneys to come back with some decisions or opinions.”

Stewart told WAFB-TV on March 23 that “to be called racist and just rogue cops and all the allegations that were made, it’s offensive to us to be called this. We needed to clear the air with the public as best we can.”
BASICALLY, what we have here is the bizarre confluence of a total breakdown in "Southern hospitality" and Baton Rouge cops internalizing the ghetto code of "snitches get stitches." Being that a) the Yankee cops went home long ago and b) the feds are watching, the locals are considering trying to, alternatively, just shake down the "snitches" in a court of law.

Or what passes for one in the Gret Stet.

After reading the Advocate piece, my wife and I were discussing our shared incredulity at Baton Rouge's official incredulity that outsiders might say awful things about how its Bubbas in blue roll down there on the bayou.

That's when it occurred to me that my wife's incredulity stems from being a native Midwesterner, and that mine stems from, after 20-plus years up here, having turned into one myself. "My God," I told her, "they think they're normal!"

OF COURSE they do. They think it's not only normal to harass and "beat down" whom they please when they please -- and, to be fair, this isn't a Louisiana-only cop pathology -- but that it's absolutely incredible that anyone would take exception, which pretty much is a Bayou State pathology.

And, hell, that might be absolutely normal--
in a Caribbean, banana republic-y kind of way -- except for that little Louisiana Purchase thing a couple of centuries back. But this ain't Haiti, and it ain't In the Heat of the Night, either.

It's the United States.
It's 2010. And, God willing, the Justice Department will be pointing out to the special-ed students of constitutional democracy -- yet again -- that's just not how we Americans roll nowadays.

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