By A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Baton Rouge Police Department's actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. The newspaper says Alejandro Miyar, a spokesperson for Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, acknowledged the probe on Thursday.
Word of the federal investigation follows reports in the Advocate detailing allegations that Baton Rouge police "routinely harassed black people, resorted to unnecessary violence and conducted illegal searches in the days after Hurricane Katrina." The stories, based on complaints made by out-of-state police sent to Louisiana to assist local officers, have been challenged by Baton Rouge police officials.
The new probe further expands the Justice Department's workload in the state. Prosecutors are already examining a string of incidents in which New Orleans Police Department officers shot at least 10 civilians during the week after Katrina roared ashore. Two former New Orleans cops recently pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from the shooting of six people on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005.
With our partners at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and PBS "Frontline," ProPublica scrutinized the NOPD in "Law & Disorder," a series of stories looking at the shootings of Matthew McDonald, Keenon McCann and Danny Brumfield. Those shootings are among the incidents now being investigated by the Justice Department.