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AP’s latest on Louisiana State Police: A culture of impunity, nepotism, abuse

FILE - In this March 2, 2019 image from police dashboard camera video obtained by The Associated Press, Louisiana State Trooper Jacob Brown slams motorist DeShawn Washington against the hood of a police cruiser during a traffic stop in Ouachita Parish, La., after troopers found marijuana in the trunk of Washington's car. (Louisiana State Police via AP)

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Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg, federal law enforcement reporters in New York and Dallas respectively, deconstructed how the Louisiana State Police scandal of beatings and cover-ups could have gone on for so long, digging deeper into the institutional thinking of the agency, its history and the background of the key figures. They interviewed dozens of current and former troopers and uncovered thousands of pages of documents that described an entrenched culture of impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism.

Weeks of reporting in Louisiana yielded a nuanced story, the latest in their investigative series showing how the 2019 deadly arrest of Ronald Greene and a string of other beatings of mostly Black motorists fit a pattern of troopers and top brass creating false narratives, burying body camera videos and thwarting investigations.

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Louisiana State Police Trooper Jacob Brown in a Dec. 10, 2020 photo provided to the AP. – Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office via AP

This story was built around a father and son. Bob Brown rose to second in command of the state agency despite being reprimanded years earlier for calling Black colleagues the n-word and flying a Confederate flag in the office. His son Jacob graduated from the police academy as a “legacy” cadet despite efforts by instructors to throw him out because of a “toxic” personality. He eventually became one of the Louisiana State Police’s most violent troopers — with the brunt of his use of force directed at Black people.

Mustian and Bleiberg also had never-before-reported details of a 2019 cheating scandal in the state police academy that targeted the entire class for dismissal. But in the end, nearly everyone in the class was allowed to graduate. And they conducted a revealing interview with the head of the state police in which he acknowledged his agency has lost the public’s trust and stunningly admitted he doesn’t know how many other cases like Ronald Greene’s could still be out there because “we’ve not looked at every video.”

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Former Louisiana State Police Trooper Carl Cavalier holds his uniform at his home in Houma, La., Oct. 15, 2021. Cavalier, a Black state trooper who was once decorated for valor but recently fired in part for criticizing the agency’s handling of brutality cases, says, “If you’re a part of the good ol’ boy system, there’s no wrong you can do. Cavalier, who was in the same state police academy class as Jacob Brown, described Brown as “untouchable.” – AP Photo / Allen G. Breed

The story,accompanied by video and photos by multiformat journalist Allen Breed,added to calls for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate racial profiling by the state police. Two days after the story ran,Louisiana lawmakers created a special committee to dig into complaints of excessive force.

The story also resonated with readers,scoring strong play online and ranking as one of the most-engaging stories of the week, with readers spending well over three minutes with the piece.

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