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La. lawmakers confirm State Police commissioner who settled federal racism complaint at his business

8 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, June 14 2023 Jun 14, 2023 June 14, 2023 6:50 PM June 14, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - A commissioner appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to the elite board that oversees discipline over Louisiana State Police was confirmed by the Senate, according to Commission Director Jason Hannaman.

That commissioner, Mark Aubrey Cole, owns Don's Specialty Meats. A Don's employee alleged he was exposed to racist conditions while working there and that he was treated so badly that he quit in the summer of 2020. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Don's in September 2021; court records show Cole would have been served with the paperwork.

At the end of March, Governor Edwards appointed Cole to the State Police Commission, which oversees discipline for all Louisiana state troopers. The governor's office said Thursday that Edwards was aware of the matter and that Cole's supporters continue to back the appointment, including a member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.

Hannaman said when his name came up before the Senate, no one objected to the appointment, so it turned into a default confirmation.

"I'm friends with plenty Blacks, and they're all from Lafayette and know that I'm not that character of a person," Cole told WBRZ last month.

Currently, Louisiana State Police is under a pattern and practice investigation tied to the way minorities were treated in Louisiana.

"If you have someone who was successfully sued by the EEOC, for discriminating against Black people and you have State Police under a pattern and practice investigation for discriminating against Black people, it doesn't add up," attorney Ron Haley said.

Haley has been on the front lines for change at Louisiana State Police ever since Ronald Greene's case was exposed. Greene, a Black man, died after he was beaten in custody. His family was told by State Police that he died in a crash. Following cover-ups and hidden evidence, top leaders at the agency lost their jobs.

"This is either completely tone deaf or completely intentional," Haley said. "Either way it's unacceptable for the community."

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