Some Very Crooked Cops Make Me Question My Ethical Consistency Concerning Katrina
On September 4th, 2005, a few days after the levees broke, several New Orleans police officers responded to a call of gunfire on the Danzinger bridge which spans the Industrial Canal in eastern New Orleans. Six civilians were shot, two of them fatally. One man, Lance Madison, was arrested and booked with attempted murder for allegedly firing at the officers. But it turns out now these civilians had no guns. The officers and their supervisors who arrived at the scene a short time later planted guns on the crime scene, picked up their own shell casings so it looked like they shot off less rounds, and then falsified the reports. One supervisor, Lt. Michael Lohman who recently retired, plead guilty yesterday in federal court to conspiracy to obstruct justice. I should add that all of the civilians who were shot were African Americans, and most of the officers were Caucasian. You might not think that race is relevant in this story, but my time in New Orleans, especially things I saw during the flood, lead me to believe that race has to be taken into account here.
This story is ongoing and I don't want to rush to judgment, but if it happened the way Lohman testified yesterday, I have to admit that I am sickened by the actions of these police officers. Crime is such a major issue in the New Orleans area, and this makes it even more challenging to believe police officers. Aside from the families of the shooting victims, I would imagine the people most upset about this cover up would be honest officers risking their lives daily to make the city safer. It shows that our next police chief will have an extremely difficult task in front of him/her to transform the department and to restore public confidence.
But this all makes me question the consistency of my ethical stance when compared to the events at Memorial Medical Center and Dr Anna Pou. I was outraged when Dr. Pou and two nurses were arrested and charged with homicide. They allegedly euthanized some very sick patients in the days after Katrina. Part of my reasoning in arguing in favor of Dr. Pou involved the chaos that followed the flood. So I can't personally figure out in my own mind how much the breakdown of civilization should be taken into consideration when judging the actions of these police officers.
This trial isn't alone, as the Feds are investigating several more incidents after Katrina involving police actions. These are going to unfold over a long period of time, and it is certainly going to pressure some strained relationships in the city. We might emerge from this a healthier society, but at this point I strongly doubt it.
Later Note: I'm told 4 of the "Danzinger 7" are African Americans. For more info see this post at thanks-katrina.