Cleaning Up the Police Department

This is not the usual kind of article with a spiritual message.

This is a report on New Orleans. Specifically, it’s about the corruption in the police department and an FBI investigation that is busting this city wide open. Thank the Lord. It’s been a long time coming.

Today, retired NOPD Lt. Michael Lohman pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of a quarter of a mil.

This is the Danziger Bridge shooting that took place on September 4, 2005, less than one week after Hurricane Katrina. The city was still in lockdown and a report came in to the police that there was a shooting on this bridge.

If you are familiar with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on Gentilly Boulevard, then you know the Danziger Bridge. You may not know it by that name–I’d never heard it called that until this shooting happened–but it’s a few blocks east of the seminary on Gentilly. It spans the Industrial Canal, and is parallel to the High-Rise Bridge on I-10.

No one is questioning that when the police arrived–driving a rental truck of all things–they shot and killed two men and wounded 6 others. Witnesses say the men were unarmed and the police shot without any provocation.

Every investigation until now–and this has been in and out of the news for nearly 5 years–has exonerated the cops. Now we know why.

Former Lt. Lohman says it is true that the victims were unarmed. When he arrived on the scene and saw that it looked bad, some of the cops decided to plant a gun on the scene. Then, the cops were told to get themselves a story. The stories have continued to evolve in the years since, we’re told.

Thankfully, the Times-Picayune has not left the story alone. It has not tried the cops in the paper, so to speak, but has kept the issue alive. Sometime in the last year, the U.S.Attorney for New Orleans, Jim Letten, got involved and brought the FBI in.

The thing is, when the local police were doing their own investigations–and they were–all they had to do was say, “We checked it out and our guys told the truth.” But when the FBI got involved, they brought in a team of investigators who specialize in civil rights violations, and these guys are beholden to no one.

Local bad guys in blue began shivering in their boots.

Lohman decided to come clean and help the investigation in order to receive the lightest sentence.

Local authorities say the investigation has been going on for some time now, but no one knows how long, so we have no idea where the case is at the moment.

Radio talk shows this afternoon surmise that more cops will be calling the FBI asking if they can beat the rush to confess.

One attorney said this is just the tip of the iceberg, that there is no telling how much corruption is in this police force.

You hate to hear this. And you hate to smear the good ones with this. But if they have condoned this kind of malfeasance by their colleagues, they have no one to blame but themselves.

So let’s have the whole story and let the chips fall.

Incoming mayor Mitch Landrieu has said he wants a national search for a new police chief and wants that man in place by the time he himself takes office in early May.

No one that I’ve heard speak of this believes a local cop could do the job. It’s going to require someone new and fresh, someone with nerves of steel, a vision of integrity that never wavers, and a rock-hard determination to see this through at all costs. I personally think he’ll have to bring in a cadre of his own people to knock heads and send a message to the boys in blue that a new sheriff is in town and nothing is ever going to be the same again. He’ll need to work with surrounding law enforcement agencies in order to be effective and respected.

I seriously doubt if anyone on the planet, other than my mother, has read every article in this blog that goes back nearly 7 years. But in the nearly 5 years since Katrina devastated our part of the world, we have spoken of the Danziger shooting on several occasions here. The tenor of those articles has been one of complete frustration. Somehow, citizens just felt the cops were lying, and that the investigations were a farce. Now, we find we were right.

Being a law enforcement officer is a serious responsibility. Citizens entrust their lives and welfare to you. It’s a trust, one to be taken heavily and handled carefully.

I suspect that the training of these men and women in blue is lacking if we are ending up with a mafia-type force that lives by its own standards and owes no one anything.

I do not live in New Orleans, but a few miles to the west in a community called River Ridge. Our police force is the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Newell Normand is the Sheriff. From all reports and every indication, we have a jewel in Newell. We do have the occasional rogue cop, but on the whole, they seem to be a good group.

We’re pulling for you, New Orleans. The city has a hundred great things going for it these days. Before we straighten out the crime problem, though, we’re going to have to clean up the police department. That’s a massive job.

“God, send us the right chief, please.”

3 thoughts on “Cleaning Up the Police Department

  1. As a cop, I am completely disheartened by these events. Working the streets calls for countless “no time to second guess” decisions, I don’t believe we will ever get the full story on this as the red cross workers who called 911 still insist they were being fired upon by the group NOPD fired into.

    Regardless, bad cops need to go. NOPD does not need another police chief as it is far too big for a handfull of changes to correct. NOPD needs a federal takeover, the FBI should have done so immediately following Katrina.

  2. This story hurts. Michael Lohman is a good guy – I don’t know what happened. He served security detail at our church for many years. He arrested and testified against the man who robbed me at our church and when the verdict was appealed 2 years later, testified again and then called to check on me when the verdict came back not guilty. I’m not saying there’s not corruption in the NOPD, there’s evidence that there is but I also believe there is still alot more to this story than we have heard so far.

  3. JP Sheriff has Steven Segal. How cool is that? His combination of toughness and Eastern spirituality makes him the most uniquely qualified person in the world to be police chief of New Orleans.

    …just kidding, you people…

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