So you wonder about government. What’s it for? Why do we need it?

A story out of New Orleans puts those questions in sharp relief: Nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina, four current and two former New Orleans police officers have been charged by the Department of Justice with federal civil rights violations (and could face the death penalty) for the shooting and killing of James Brissette and Ronald Madison, two unarmed African Americans, in the aftermath of the storm.

In the immediate wake of the killings, the New Orleans police dreamt up a story about being shot at. A cover up followed that included manufactured witnesses, a planted weapon, a fake police report and lying to a state grand jury.

Murder charges brought by the New Orleans Parish DA were dismissed by a judge in 2008.

It’s taken Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse course. Now Holder’s saying the charges against the six are only a start. What’s needed is reform. In the wake of the involuntary manslaughter charges against Johannes Mehserle for the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, it is good to hear that the Obama justice department is involved in a full review of the New Orleans police department. But why five years later? And why stop there?

If a federal investigation’s good enough for New Orleans, how about Oakland too?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at and Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on