BATON ROUGE, La. — The head of the Louisiana State Police will retire from the job at the end of the month, amid ongoing questions about the death of a Black man in the law enforcement agency's custody and the secrecy around the encounter that is now subject to a federal civil rights investigation.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Col. Kevin Reeves' retirement Tuesday in a statement that suggested the state police superintendent had been planning his Oct. 31 retirement since last year. No replacement was immediately named.
The governor's statement did not mention the death of Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old barber, which had sparked protests, loud criticism of the state police and calls for Reeves' resignation.
Edwards thanked Reeves in a statement for “his decades of dedicated service as the consummate law enforcement professional committed to serving and protecting the people of Louisiana. Public safety has always been his highest priority.”
Earlier this month, a state trooper was indicted on battery and weapons charges, accused of shooting a 19-year-old man in the back during a 2018 traffic stop in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, the state police have come under increased scrutiny from Black lawmakers and local civil rights groups for Greene's death near Monroe in May 2019.
State police initially blamed Greene's death on a car crash. But an attorney for Greene's family members told The Associated Press that body camera video of Greene's encounter with the state police shows troopers choking and beating the man and dragging him face-down across pavement. The state police and Edwards have refused to release the footage publicly, citing ongoing investigations.
In a 27-second audio clip of body-camera footage obtained by The AP from one of the responding officers, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth can be heard telling a colleague, “I beat the ever-living f--- out of him.” Graphic pictures of Greene’s body released by his family show deep bruises to his face and cuts on his head.
The state police waited more than a year to discipline Hollingsworth, who died in a single-car crash last month just hours after learning he had been fired over his role in the incident. No other troopers on the scene have been publicly reprimanded.
Demonstrators have demanded Reeves step down.
Reeves was promoted to superintendent in March 2017. At the time, he was overseeing a statewide quick reaction force and patrol operations in central and north Louisiana. He has been with the state police for 30 years, starting in 1990 as a motorcycle trooper.
In the statement released by the governor's office, Reeves called it an honor to serve as superintendent.
“Throughout my career, I have advocated for the men and women of the Louisiana State Police and the heroic work they do each and every day. They will always be family,” he said.
Reeves took over the position leading an agency already mired in controversies. Mike Edmonson retired as head of the state police after coming under increasing criticism for his management.
Concerns had been raised about thousands of dollars the state police spent on a trip to a law enforcement conference in California and about a nonprofit trooper organization’s donations to political candidates despite bans on political contributions from troopers. A scathing audit released later found that Edmonson lived a lavish lifestyle financed by misused state tax dollars, which Edmonson denied.
Lawmakers passed an exemption to Louisiana's ethics code in 2017 to allow Reeves' son to continue working as a state trooper despite his father's promotion to superintendent.