Even before the New Orleans arrests started in 2010, it was becoming clear that the city was going to be the target of one of the most wide-ranging federal campaigns against police wrongdoing, says the New York Times. Beyond a yearlong investigation into the culture and practices of the police department, the Justice Department charged 18 current and former officers with crimes relating to the deaths of residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Between plea agreements and convictions, officers were collectively facing over 250 years in prison. The campaign has faced a series of stunning reversals, most recently on Wednesday when a federal jury acquitted David Warren, a former police officer who was on trial, for the second time, on charges of shooting and killing an unarmed man. This acquittal came three months after a federal judge threw out the convictions and ordered new trials for five other officers in connection with the shooting of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge. As a result, the post-Katrina prosecutions have proved to be a far more difficult and problematic undertaking. Wednesday's verdict seemed to line up with what many officers on trial have argued: that these were unique events under extreme circumstances rather than, as the Justice Department and some city officials have insisted, symptoms of a much deeper and broader dysfunction within the police force.