law & disorder


October 6, 2011 13:48 Tough Sentences for Danziger Bridge Officers Turned Witnesses Federal prosecutors yesterday asked for leniency in sentencing two former New Orleans police officers who pleaded guilty to participating in the cover-up of the notorious post-Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings. CONTINUE »
September 15, 2011 13:26 FBI Agents To Monitor New Orleans Police Two FBI agents will be stationed full time in the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau, the department and the FBI jointly announced this week. The agents, whose presence was requested by the NOPD, will investigate allegations of significant corruption or civil rights violations in the department. CONTINUE »
August 5, 2011 14:07 Verdict: Five NOPD Officers Guilty in Danziger Bridge Shootings, Cover-Up A federal jury today found all five Danziger Bridge defendants guilty of the shootings that killed two civilians and seriously wounded four others in the days after Hurricane Katrina. The jury also found the officers guilty of a massive cover-up that lasted nearly five years. Five NOPD officers had previously pleaded guilty in the case. CONTINUE »

What Were the Rules?

By Sabrina Shankman

Law & Disorder reveals that in the midst of post-Katrina chaos, law-enforcement commanders issued orders to ignore long-established rules governing the use of deadly force. Here's a closer look at what the rules actually say.

Martial Law

Martial law is not in the U.S. Constitution; however 18 state constitutions allow for it. But the rules -- and the meaning of that declaration -- differ greatly in each state. In general, martial law revolves around the concept of the military taking over governing authority in a region.

Louisiana's constitution contains no statute for martial law, but there is a provision that allows the governor to call in the armed forces to "preserve law and order, to suppress insurrection, to repel invasion, or in other times of emergency."

Use of Force

The New Orleans Police Department regulates use of force -- including use of deadly force -- according to state law. There are three scenarios in which an officer can use deadly force:

  • In self-defense, if he reasonably believes he is in imminent danger;
  • To prevent a violent or forcible felony involving great bodily harm, which cannot be stopped by any other means than deadly force;
  • To protect another person who faces an imminent threat.

There are a few things that the NOPD's rules specify that officers can't do -- one is to shoot at felons who are fleeing a scene, and the other is to fire a warning shot.

Shoot to Kill

The term "shoot to kill" is one that exists more in movies and the media than in modern policing. Deadly force, as defined by the New Orleans Police Department's use of force regulation, includes the discharging of a firearm, "even if there is no intent to kill or injure." Technically, because every time an officer fires his weapon it is to neutralize a threat in the most effective way possible, officers are trained to always shoot to kill. The term, then, is inherently redundant.

Sabrina Shankman is the associate producer on Law & Disorder. She has reported for ProPublica, The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.

posted august 25, 2010

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