Ronal Serpas, new superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, read the mountain of federal court docu,ments detailing the alleged behavior of his officers with increasing alarm, reports USA Today. Serpas said the papers are like a “disgustingly vile novel,” outlining the murders of two unarmed civilians, the woundings of four others, and a vast coverup involving 11 current and former officers accused in the 2005 shootings in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Five officers have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and six others were indicted last month on charges ranging from murder to obstruction of justice. More than 90 days into his tenure as the city’s top cop, Serpas says the reality of his department is even worse than the “insidious” accounts he began reading in the documents before he was appointed in May. Court records accuse officers of killing innocent survivors of the storm, then covering up their actions by creating fictional witnesses and holding a secret meeting to get their stories straight. Serpas says the troubles run even deeper: More officers have been linked to other crimes, and new charges are likely. Five years after Hurricane Katrina – when some New Orleans officers deserted their posts and film crews caught others looting stores – police officials, community activists, and civil rights advocates say the storm exposed systemic failures in a law enforcement agency that had been decaying for years. Many of the city’s institutions have rebounded from the storm, but the police department seems to have sunk to new lows. With the department’s credibility in tatters, the federal government has launched an unprecedented intervention to salvage the agency at the urging of the city’s new mayor.