Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Use of racial slurs not ‘isolated’ at Louisiana State Police

reported exclusively on a string of racial slurs used by Louisiana State Police troopers, both in their official emails and spoken on the job, refuting the contention of the agency’s superintendent that the use of such demeaning language was just “isolated.”Mustian reviewed hundreds of police records and found at least a dozen instances over a three-year period in which employees forwarded racist emails or demeaned minority colleagues with racist nicknames. He also exclusively obtained documents of an accidental “pocket-dial” of sorts in which a white trooper sent a voice mail to a Black trooper that blurted out his name and then a vile racist slur. The state police superintendent made an abrupt retirement announcement in the midst of Mustian’s reporting, which follows weeks of his coverage on the still-unexplained death of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist taken into custody last year following a police chase. Reeves faced criticism for his secretive handling of the case, including the refusal to release body-cam video that, according to those who have seen it, shows troopers beating, choking and dragging Greene. The case is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Mustian’s story on the racial slurs received strong play, including on the front page of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune/Advocate. https://bit.ly/34VHCkp

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Sept. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals pattern of beatings, shrouded in secrecy, by Louisiana State Police

Law enforcement reporters Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg built on their previous reporting to document a devastating pattern of violence and secrecy at the Louisiana State Police, identifying at least a dozen beating cases over the past decade in which troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

Their exclusive investigation stems from the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene — initially blamed on a car crash. That case was blown open this spring when the AP published long-withheld video showing state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black motorist as he pleaded for mercy. Mustian and Bleiberg proceeded to scour investigative records and work sources, finding a disproportionate use of force against Louisiana’s Black population and an absence of transparency and accountability in the agency.

Impact from this latest story was swift, from the head of the state police to a Louisiana congressman and others calling for investigation and reform.

For dogged reporting that peeled back the layers of case after case to reveal a pattern of abuse — and is effecting change in Louisiana — Mustian and Bleiberg earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 24, 2016

Best of the States

Historic flooding in Louisiana

Many media were slow to respond to the historic flooding in Louisiana this month, but not The Associated Press. AP journalists provided timely, perceptive and poignant spot and enterprise stories from the very first hours of the torrential rains.

Aggressive cross-format coverage by a staff focused on stories of real people were key to covering the disaster. In text, the reporters included New Orleans administrative correspondent Rebecca Santana; Baton Rouge correspondent Melinda Deslatte; and newsmen Mike Kunzelman in Baton Rouge and Kevin McGill in New Orleans. Freelance photographer Max Becherer and video journalists John Mone of Houston, and Josh Replogle of Miami rounded out AP's team on the ground.

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June 18, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Secret panel investigating Louisiana State Police unit’s treatment of Black motorists

From the very beginning of Jim Mustian’s stellar reporting on the death of Black motorist Ronald Greene, he has been driven by two main questions: What really happened to Greene on the night of his 2019 arrest? And was this a pattern of how Louisiana state troopers treated Black motorists?

Mustian answered the first last month when he obtained body camera video showing troopers stunning, choking, punching and dragging the unarmed Greene as he apologized and begged for mercy. 

And he began answering the second this past week when he exclusively reported that the Louisiana State Police has convened a secret panel to investigate whether Troop F — the same unit involved in Greene’s arrest  — was systematically targeting other Black motorists. Mustian’s detailed reporting and solid sourcing turned up new cases and new video, and he landed the first-ever interview with one of the victims. 

His scoop scored with heavy play and strong engagement. For dogged reporting to keep the AP ahead on a searing case of racial injustice and its continuing fallout, Mustian earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP’s latest on Louisiana State Police: A culture of impunity, nepotism, abuse

deconstructed how the Louisiana State Police scandal of beatings and cover-ups could have gone on for so long, digging deeper into the institutional thinking of the agency, its history and the background of key figures. They interviewed dozens of current and former troopers and uncovered thousands of pages of documents that described an entrenched culture of impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism.This story, the latest in their investigative series stemming from the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene, was built around a father who rose to second in command of the state agency despite being reprimanded for racist behavior, and his son who became one of the state police’s most violent troopers — with the brunt of his use of force directed at Black people.Mustian and Bleiberg, federal law enforcement reporters, also had never-before-reported details of a 2019 cheating scandal in the state police academy that targeted the entire class for dismissal. In the end, nearly everyone in the class was allowed to graduate. And they conducted a revealing interview with the head of the state police in which he admitted he doesn’t know how many other cases like Ronald Greene’s could still be out there because “we’ve not looked at every video.”The story, accompanied by video and photos by multiformat journalist Allen Breed, added to calls for a federal investigation, and Louisiana lawmakers created a special committee to dig into reports of excessive force. The piece also resonated with readers, scoring strong play online and ranking as one of the most-engaged stories of the week.https://aplink.news/3zuhttps://aplink.video/ysmhttps://aplink.news/xda

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May 03, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Back-to-back scoops reveal details of Louisiana police cases

for two accountability scoops in his native Louisiana. Mustian tapped sources to get the state police there to reveal an embarrassing security breach at the governor’s mansion – a man accused of breaking in, damaging property and then falling asleep on a couch. That APNewsBreak was published just hours after he revealed the full body-camera footage of the police-involved shooting of Juston Landry in Lake Charles. A grand jury cleared the officer of the shooting, but Landry’s attorney characterized the footage as “murder on camera.”https://bit.ly/2GQx9tvhttps://bit.ly/2LfQv0B

June 12, 2020

Best of the States

AP Analysis: After previous police killings, states slow to reform use-of-force

Calls for police reforms after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis have echoed the calls to action after a wave of killings of young black men by police in 2014. 

So what happened after those killings? 

Ohio statehouse reporter Julie Carr Smyth, working with AP colleagues around the country, found that while nearly half the states have since enacted some type of reform, only a third passed legislation limiting use of force. The reporting revealed that contributions from politically influential police unions were a key factor in stalling legislation, while a separate analysis by the data team showed that Minneapolis police disproportionately used force against blacks when compared with other racial groups. 

The day Smyth’s story moved, a number of states made proposals to limit the use of deadly force.

For quickly reporting out and leading a national look at what reforms have taken place in the last six years, Smyth wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 13, 2021

Best of the States

AP: Louisiana police brass eyed for obstruction of justice in Black motorist’s deadly arrest

Law enforcement reporters Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg kept the AP out front on the fallout from the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, exclusively reporting that federal prosecutors are investigating whether top Louisiana State Police brass obstructed justice to protect the troopers seen on body camera video punching, dragging and stunning the Black motorist.

It was just the latest in a string of AP scoops on the highly secretive in-custody death that troopers initially blamed on a car crash.

The pair also exclusively obtained the full confidential file on the Greene case, including evidence photos showing troopers with Greene’s blood on their hands, uniforms and badges. The story, accompanied by some of those photos and the body cam video, was one of the AP's most engaged offerings of the week.

For strong investigative work to keep exposing the details of a case that had long been shrouded in secrecy, Mustian and Bleiberg win this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose state police cover-up attempt in Greene death

scored yet another exclusive in his groundbreaking coverage of the death of Black motorist Ronald Greene in the custody of Louisiana state troopers, obtaining internal documents showing police brass still trying to blame Greene’s death on a car crash, more than a year and a half after they were aware of body camera footage showing troopers brutalizing the unarmed man.The agency sought to reduce its liability in Greene’s 2019 death despite footage showing troopers stunning, punching and dragging the unarmed man — and one trooper’s startling admission that he bashed him in the head with a flashlight, a use of deadly force not previously reported.Mustian's deeply reported story — which had AP’s second-highest reader engagement for the week — showed in startling detail how everyone from top brass to troopers on the scene were involved in trying to cover up or downplay their roles in Greene’s death. https://aplink.news/s7j

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May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States receiving disproportionate shares of virus aid

revealed that some of the least-populated states with relatively few coronavirus cases received an outsized proportion of the $150 billion in federal money that was designed to address virus-related expenses. The AP analysis found that much of the aid went to states where there was relatively little need. Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming all received from $2 million to more than $3 million per COVID-19 case. The hardest-hit state, New York, received just $24,000 per case and New Jersey slightly more. https://bit.ly/2YZWQ5n

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data, finding that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.AP’s analysis, led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team, led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst, interviewed parents, researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people, new parents, infants and young children. And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services, the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also measured poorly in some categories.Read more

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July 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Myanmar military, police declare war on medics

continued AP’s dominant coverage of Myanmar’s unrest, this time revealing how Myanmar security forces were deliberately and systematically attacking medics in the middle of the pandemic. In an extremely difficult story to report, the AP team was able to track down health workers who were in hiding and carefully contacted them using encrypted apps.One interviewee spoke of a newborn in the embattled town of Mindat who had died due to suspected pneumonia because his parents could not find a doctor. Going on scant information, AP finally broke that story open thanks to a tweet by someone in Myanmar referencing the baby's death that included the parents' names. Stringers then overcame bad communications, an adversarial military and monsoon season to locate the parents of the dead child in a refugee camp. The resulting story by Sydney-based Gelineau and Jakarta-based Milko was one of heartbreak and sensitivity with disturbing but compelling video produced by multiformat journalist Allen Breed, including medics being beaten by police, and photos that laid out how, despite the brutality, the health care workers continued trying to save lives.Physicians for Human Rights called it an ”amazing piece,” and the “deepest dive” so far into the attack on doctors in Myanmar. It was shared on Twitter by prominent human rights advocates and called a “gripping and important investigation” and a “devastating investigative report.”https://aplink.news/o02https://aplink.video/i3n

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April 03, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive reporting on police contracting COVID-19

coordinated with colleagues around the AP to track how many police officers were getting sick with the coronavirus. Documented with exclusive nationwide data and illustrated with photos from multiple datelines, the result was a richly reported and deeply researched story on how police departments are struggling to manage the growing tally of sick officers, which rose from a few dozen to nearly 700 in a week - including Detroit’s chief of police. https://bit.ly/39vzdmY

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Oct. 29, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals police using force disproportionately against Black, brown children

When San Francisco-based data reporter Camille Fassett obtained a national dataset on police use of force, she and Washington-based law enforcement team leader Colleen Long pored over the numbers, looking for a new angle on the well-trod issue. Then investigative fellow Helen Wieffering hit on something — the data included numerous instances of force used against teens and kids.

Looking closer, what they found was stunning: 3,000 cases over 11 years where police used force against children, some as young as 6.

To put faces and voices to the numbers, the reporters spent months interviewing children, teens and parents. The team also secured police body camera footage that backed up the stories. The resulting package was a remarkable all-formats look at how Black and brown children are disproportionately affected by police force.For a deeply reported story that explores a little-recognized aspect of police use of force, the team of Fassett, Long and Wieffering is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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