Four years after the New Orleans Police Department was accused of acting lawlessly in suppressing violence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, dozens of officers, some from an elite unit, have been interviewed by the FBI or faced subpoenas to testify before federal grand juries, the New York Times reports. FBI agents seized files from the department's homicide division.
If indictments are brought against officers, some of whom have been celebrated as heroes of the storm, the impact – on the city's race relations, on the coming mayoral election and on the essential but already brittle relationship between police officers and citizens – could be profound. “Any one of those federal probes could be viewed as the most significant investigation in any FBI office in the country,” said Rafael Goyeneche III, a former prosecutor who is the president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a nonprofit organization that focuses on crime and corruption in Louisiana. Unlike many federal civil rights investigations, which often involve only a few officers, he said, “these are much more extensive.”