New Orleans police brutality exposed

July 26, 2010

NEW ORLEANS--Four New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officers were charged July 13 with federal civil rights violations stemming from the murder of 17-year-old James Brissette and the wounding of four of his family members on the Danziger Bridge just days after Hurricane Katrina.

One of the four officers was also charged with the murder of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with severe mental disabilities. In a separate incident, Madison was shot in the back by police as he tried to flee across the Danziger Bridge.

This case is just one of at least eight ongoing FBI civil rights violation investigations into the actions of the NOPD. In June, five NOPD officers were charged with the murder of Henry Glover and the assault of his companions. Glover's charred remains were found in a car dumped in a swamp behind a police station.

The FBI is also investigating the murder of Danny Brumfield Sr. in front of a makeshift refugee camp for those awaiting rescue in the days directly following Hurricane Katrina. According to the NOPD, Brumfield leapt onto the hood of a moving police car while making a stabbing motion with a pair of scissors. Officers shot him in the back.

All of the shootings took place in the days following Hurricane Katrina, as the NOPD, National Guard and Blackwater Security were allowed to patrol the city, armed to the teeth, to protect against so-called "looters."

All of the victims were Black.

For years, New Orleans residents have complained of police brutality at the hands of the NOPD, yet it wasn't until last year that the FBI stepped in to investigate civil rights violations. In New Orleans and the surrounding cities, police routinely abuse, harass and beat African American men, women and children. Former Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, for example, instituted a policy of stopping all African Americans out after dark.

Since the first investigation was launched, the NOPD and the Police Association of New Orleans have tried to paint these violations and atrocities as rogue acts committed by a few "bad apples." Earlier this year, Police Association of New Orleans President Michael Glasser spoke out against the Justice Department's monitoring of police, calling it "overkill."

But as more of these cases come to light, it becomes clear these aren't just a few bad apples. It's the department and system that are rotten to the core.

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