On September 4th, 2005, days after Hurricane Katrina, four New Orleans police officers, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, opened fire on six unarmed residents, two of whom died. Afterwards, these officers as well as their at the time Sargent, Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shooting, attempted to cover up the shootings. The cover up included conspiring to plant a firearm, fabricating witnesses and lying on police incident reports. The cover up lead to the arrest of Lance Madison on attempted murder charges. The officers falsely claimed that Madison opened fire on them which is what led to them opening fire on those six residents. Madison spent three weeks in prison before a judge released him.
Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Faulcon were convicted of federal firearms charges, which has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 35 years. Kaufman was convicted of assisting in the cover up of the shooting. Faulcon who was convicted of charges in both fatal shootings, was sentenced to 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius, were sentenced to 40 years. Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman was sentenced to 6 years. All five were convicted of participating in a cover up.
In order to understand these officers’ corruption, it is useful to refer to Punch’s (2009) three typologies of police corruption, a typology of types of officers, a typology of practices, and a typology of levels of police deviance.
These officers would be classified as meat eaters, according to Punch’s (2009) typology of types of officers. Meat eaters are officers who actively and knowingly participate in illegal activity. In this case, all officers actively and knowingly committed illegal actions, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime.
A typology of practices contains eight categories, a few of which are applicable to this case. Specifically, this case is relatable to the following categories the fix, direct criminal activities, and flaking and padding. The fix refers to “undermining criminal investigations or proceedings, loss of evidence, fixing parking tickets” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers attempt to undermine the criminal investigation of the shooting by attempting to cover it up. Direct criminal activities, refers to “committing a crime in clear violation of criminal norms” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers violate the law in numerous ways, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime. Lastly, flaking and padding refers to “planting or adding to evidence to ‘set someone up’” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, the officers attempt to justify their opening fire on six residents by falsely claiming that Lance Madison shot at them first.
Punch’s (2009) typology of levels of police deviance includes three levels, externally driven, within the police domain and system failure: labeling and wider impact of corruption. There is evidence of police deviance within the police domain, specifically process corruption. The officers plant evidence and make false statements. If one reads further into the case, the prosecution of the case, there is evidence of system failure, specifically police and criminal justice failure. During the case’s prosecution, prosecutors are criticized by the judge in seeking a lighter sentence for the highest ranking officer at the shooting scene and unsure of the credibility of officers who plead guilty and testified against other officers.
Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.