In Louisiana, a father, a son and a culture of police abuse

Louisiana

In this Friday, Sept. 25, 2020 file photo, troopers gather during the burial services for Louisiana State Police Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth in West Monroe, La. Hollingsworth died in a single-car crash hours after he learned he had been fired for his role in the in-custody death of Ronald Greene. As the Louisiana State Police reel from a sprawling federal investigation into the deadly 2019 arrest of Greene, a Black motorist, and other beating cases, dozens of current and former troopers tell The Associated Press of an entrenched culture at the agency of impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

MONROE, La. (AP) — Growing up in the piney backwoods of northern Louisiana, where yards were dotted with crosses and the occasional Confederate flag, Jacob Brown was raised on hunting, fishing and dreams of becoming a state trooper.

But within weeks of arriving at the Louisiana State Police training academy in Baton Rouge, instructors pegged Brown as trouble. One wrote that he was an arrogant, chronic rule-breaker with “toxic” character traits that should disqualify him from ever joining the state’s elite law enforcement agency.

Fortunately for Brown, the state police was known as a place where who you knew often trumped what you did, and where most introductory chats eventually got around to a simple question: Who’s your daddy?

Jacob Brown is the son of Bob Brown, then part of the state police’s top brass who would rise to second in command despite being reprimanded years earlier for calling Black colleagues the n-word and hanging a Confederate flag in his office. And the son would not only become a “legacy hire” but prove his instructors prophetic by becoming one of the most violent troopers in the state, reserving most of his punches, flashlight strikes and kicks for the Black drivers he pulled over along the soybean and cotton fields near where he grew up.

When friends and colleagues would ask Bob Brown how his first-born was getting along as a trooper, he’d respond with a seemingly innocuous boast:

“He’s knocking heads.”This Dec. 10, 2020, file photo provided by the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office shows Louisiana State Police Trooper Jacob Brown.

The Browns’ story is woven throughout the recent history of the Louisiana State Police and represents what dozens of current and former troopers have described to The Associated Press as a culture of impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism.

This Dec. 10, 2020, file photo provided by the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office shows Louisiana State Police Trooper Jacob Brown.

It illustrates the dynamics that have made the agency the focus of a sprawling federal investigation that initially examined the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene and has since expanded to include a string of other cases — several involving Jacob Brown — in which troopers are accused of beatings and cover-ups, even when they are caught on video.

“If you’re a part of the good ol’ boy system, there’s no wrong you can do,” said Carl 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.

It’s an us-versus-them culture, they say, in which many troopers and higher-ups are more interested in covering for each other than living up to the agency’s image of honor, duty, courage and “doing the right thing.”

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