Agency under fire for Ronald Green’s death gets new leader

Louisiana State Police has been mired in several controversies, including the death of Green, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody following a traffic stop

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Throughout his election campaign, Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry promised to prioritize fighting crime in Louisiana, a state that in recent years has had one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

On Wednesday, he took steps that he said would help fulfill that promise, appointing a new state police chief and other statewide safety and security leadership positions. Landry said he also plans to call the legislature into a special session to address crime once he’s in the governor’s office.

March On Washington To Protest Police Brutality
Family members of Ronald Greene listen to speakers as they gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington August 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Currently the state’s attorney general, Landry said an integral part of his plan as Louisiana’s chief executive is to improve safety in New Orleans, which has often been in the national spotlight for violent crime.

The governor-elect remarked during a news conference that he will bring “as much of a law enforcement presence” as necessary to keep New Orleans safe.

But when pressed for specifics on tackling crime in the state’s tourist-friendly and most-populous city, he was not forthcoming.

“We just announced the new adjutant general (leader of the Louisiana National Guard) and he’d tell you that you would never lay your plans out to the enemy,” he said. “And in the battle to fight crime, I would not come here and give you all specifics.”

Landry held the news conference on the field of the Caesars Superdome, site of the 2025 Super Bowl.

“The past statistics that have plagued the city cannot be in place when kickoff time comes, and so everything is on the table,” Landry said.

As in numerous other parts of the country, violence surged in Louisiana following the onset of COVID-19. And while data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that crime has steadily decreased in Louisiana over the past decade, New Orleans has continued to struggle with a surge of killings.

In this Thursday, May 27, 2021, file photo, demonstrators stand in front of the governor’s mansion after a march from the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, La., protesting the death of Ronald Greene, who died in the custody of Louisiana State Police in 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Landry, who was backed by former President Donald Trump in this year’s gubernatorial election, has employed a lot of tough-on-crime rhetoric, and has repeatedly slammed Louisiana’s 2017 criminal justice overhaul.

In a surprise collaboration on Wednesday, Landry was joined by Jason Williams, an Orleans Parish district attorney who is a progressive Democrat and has butted heads with the governor-elect. Standing side-by- side, Landry announced that GOP Attorney General-elect Liz Murrill will lead the prosecution of defendants arrested as a result of state police investigations in the parish.

“You look around the country, you don’t often see Republicans and Democrats sitting down to solve the toughest problems,” Williams said. “And that’s what we’ve been doing, focusing on crime in the city of New Orleans.”

Landry announced that Major Robert Hodges will be the head of Louisiana State Police. Hodges, a 28-year veteran of the agency, will oversee the beleaguered department, which has faced a slew of controversies — including the deadly arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene in 2019 and a federal probe by the U.S. Justice Department.

Landry named Gen. Thomas Friloux to lead the Louisiana National Guard and former state Rep. Bryan Adams to lead the state fire marshal’s office.

The appointees will assume their new roles when Landry is inaugurated on Jan. 8.

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE