Monday, February 6, 2012

Local History: Adolph Archie, Tortured and Killed by NOPD in 1990

Adolph Archie, murdered in an extra-judicial killing by NOPD in 1990.
article courtesy of HRW: On March 22, 1990, Adolph Archie, an African-American man, was accused of killing a white officer, Earl Hauck, during a shootout downtown. On the way from the scene of the shooting to the hospital, the police transporting Archie, who had been injured during the incident, took twelve minutes to travel seven blocks. When they arrived at the hospital, approximately one hundred officers were waiting for them after hearing that Hauck had died. 

During this period, officers were broadcasting death threats against Archie over police radios. Those transporting Archie, including a close friend of Hauck's, stated later that they thought there could be a lynching at the hospital where the officers continued to threaten Archie. The officers transporting Archie decided not to enter the hospital, but instead of following department policy and taking him to another hospital, they drove him to Hauck's police station. 

At the station, officers claimed there was a scuffle with Archie, and that he "slipped and fell." The station's sergeant denied ever seeing the officers or Archie and did not raise questions about the bloodstains that appeared on the floor; instead he simply ordered an inmate trustee to clean them up.(9)

By the time Archie got to a doctor, he had been beaten severely. His skull was fractured and his teeth had been kicked in. Most of the bones in his face were broken. His larynx was fractured. And there was severe hemorrhaging in his testicles, yet no officer was held accountable then or later.(10) 
Once they got to the hospital, events became more confused. Some of Archie's hospital x-rays, showing his injuries, reportedly vanished. Medical staff were unable to determine Archie's name or his background (even though officers knew his name) and injected him with iodine for a medical test, to which he was allegedly allergic, leading some to conclude this had killed him. 

Two pathologists said he was beaten to death, and it was reported that he had exacerbated his condition by pulling out tubes in his throat at some point and that the injuries to his throat prevented breathing without them. His death was ultimately called a "homicide by police intervention" by the coroner's office.(11)

In a settlement with the city, Archie's family was paid $333,000, with one-third designated for the family of Officer Hauck.(12) According to all reports, no officers were ever criminally prosecuted or administratively sanctioned; in fact, within hours of Archie's death, then-Superintendent Warren Woodfork cleared all the involved officers of any departmental violations.(13) It was also reported that the rookie officer who initially apprehended Archie and did not shoot him on the spot was vilified by fellow officers for his restraint!(14)

In a May 1993 report requested by then-Mayor Sidney Barthelemy - one of several reports detailing problems in the police department and recommending changes that were ignored until subsequent, high-profile cases - the advisory committee on human relations found that some officers behaved brutally and that the department's efforts to control them were "halfhearted and ineffectual."(15)

The committee found a relatively small percentage of bad officers, but its chairperson noted: "[T]he police department itself helps to cover up such people through the code of silence, and anyone who rats on another guy will find himself never promoted. Those signals come from the top and work their way down."(16) 

Among its scores of recommendations, the report called for: public, quarterly reports containing the number of complaints and type, race of all parties, final disposition and reasons; civilian involvement in disciplinary decisions; stricter rules regarding off-duty employment; and publication of the number of civil lawsuits and how they were resolved.(17)

Does all this sound familiar? It should, as the same type of investigations have again occurred recently and the Department of Justice has written recommendations. It should be obvious that such "problems" with the police department are in fact an inherent manifestation of it's essential nature and function in society and are un-reformable outcomes of it's existence. The only realistic way to get rid of the inevitable "problems" that come to light over and over in the NOPD is to stop using police and prisons as a viable way to fight crime. They don't work, as our current murder rate attests, and those systems create externalities that undermine their own stated purpose for existing.

Then Mayor Marc Morial - who was elected in 1994 in part to clean up the NOPD - appointed former Washington, D.C. assistant chief of police Richard Pennington as an outsider reformer. In discussing the task he faced in fighting police corruption and abuse, Pennington noted, "[I]t took years for the department to get to the point it was when I arrived, and it is going to take years to change the ingrained culture."(18)  

Of course, the Police Chief would never have admitted that he faced a structurally impossible task. The entire bargain that the ruling class makes with police is that they can act above the law, be sadistic and violent, have relative impunity, make a middle class salary, and enjoy "heroic" status through their portrayal in the corporate media in exchange for enforcing the unjust laws of the ruling class's system upon the poor.

The superintendent did fire or reprimand scores of officers, called for improved background checks on recruits (ending the practice of hiring known criminals), instituted an early warning system to spot repeat offenders(19) on the force, and placed limits on off-duty employment. In general, the superintendent gets high marks from police abuse experts in the city, but some worry that his reform efforts are linked to him personally and may mean little if he leaves the force. 

And despite positive actions by then-Superintendent Pennington, the U.S. Attorney for New Orleans has warned, "There has been a change to some degree in that culture of tolerance of corruption. But as long as there are some officers who are holdovers from the previous regime, then I think we still have a problem."(20)

The current situation, with the recent DoJ report and an endless litany of abuses of power by officers, attests to the ultimate failure of reforms (like replacing the Police Chief) to change an institution that at it's core is about the oppression of the poor and the protection of the rich, an instrument of oppression that will always sprout new abuses as long as it exists.

8 Allan Katz, "Policing an atypical city," New Orleans, June 1990, p. 39.
9 Russell Miller, "The big sleazy," Sunday Times Magazine (London), October 8, 1995; Letter from Dr. Michael Baden, NY State Police, forensic pathologist retained by the FBI, June 25, 1990; Christopher Cooper, "Archie tale doesn't explain it all," Times-Picayune, August 8, 1993.
10 Ibid.
11 Bob Herbert, "Disgracing the Badge," New York Times, September 18, 1995; letter from attorney Mary Howell to Attorney General Janet Reno, March 30, 1993, citing Orleans Parish Coroner's office.
12 Bill Voelker, "Settlement split with kin of slain cop," Times-Picayune, May 20, 1994.
13 Ibid.; Howell letter, March 30, 1993; and Herbert, September 18, 1995.
14 Allen Johnson, Jr., "Dead men do tell tales," Gambit, October 17, 1995.
15 The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Human Relations, "Report on police use of force," May 19, 1993, p. 3.
16 Susan Finch, "NOPD told to put stop to brutality," Times-Picayune, May 20, 1993.
17 In 1991, the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommended the creation of an early warning system, another recommendation ignored by the police department until quite recently.
18 Miller, "The big sleazy," Sunday Times Magazine (London).
19 When an attorney reviewed IAD's files covering 1987 until March 1990, she found that approximately 8 percent of officers were the subject of 38 percent of all complaints.
20 Comments of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana on National Public Radio program, February 4, 1998.

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