Sunday, September 6, 2009

Feds Explore Criminal Charges Against New Orleans Police Department

The Sunday Times-Picayune, in a front page story, reports that Federal agents have been investigating the New Orleans Police Department, issuing subpoenas, gathering grand jury testimony, and even “a surprise search warrant executed on the New Orleans Police Department homicide office.” The main targets of the investigation seems to be the killings in Algiers in the days after the storm, as well as those on the Danziger Bridge, but the probe goes further, also exploring “the police shooting of 22-year-old Adolph Grimes in the 6th Ward on New Year's Day” among other incidents. Hopefully, they will also explore the racial attacks led by NOPD officers at Midcity’s Beach Corner Bar in 2008.

According to the Picayune article, “Observers and authorities say the investigations, and the charges they are likely to result in, could shake the very foundation of the New Orleans Police Department in ways that haven't been seen since the Len Davis murder-for-hire case in the mid-1990s.”

Apparently, the NOPD have not been cooperative. In one incident mentioned in the article, “the 2nd District commander argued with and nearly barred agents earlier this summer from entering his station house.”

It’s good to see the Picayune give this story serious coverage. Perhaps they are attempting to atone for ignoring the Algiers story for over three years, until journalist AC Thompson wrote about it for and the Nation Magazine.

Federal agents apparently first heard about the Algiers killings from the Nation article. It’s too bad that both the Feds and the Picayune didn’t pay attention to the many local journalists, activists, and others bringing the story up in the years before, including Malik Rahim on Democracy Now in 2005, the testimony at the 2007 Katrina Tribunal, sponsored by People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, reporting by blogger Darwin Bond-Graham on New Orleans Indymedia (also in 2007), and a documentary filmed by a European crew in 2005 called Welcome to New Orleans, which featured interviews with some of the white vigilantes involved in the killings.

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