Constitutional Law

After Katrina, Some New Orleans Police Say They Were Told They Could Shoot Looters

In an order that apparently contravened state law or created dangerous ambiguity, some New Orleans police say they were told after Hurricane Katrina either that they could shoot looters or do what they needed to do to “take back the city,” reports Pro Publica.

Under federal constitutional standards and Louisiana state law, police have authority to shoot when a suspect poses a threat of “great bodily harm” to an officer or another person, the article states. But confusion may have been created by statements broadcast about “martial law” allegedly being in effect in New Orleans after the devastating storm. In fact, the Louisiana constitution does not provide for martial law.

It isn’t clear whether any of the city police officers recently indicted in a federal civil rights case concerning the use of deadly force in the hurricane’s aftermath may have heard that an order reportedly permitted or implied that police could shoot looters.

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