Discretionary orders

A friend forwarded the following Los Angeles Times story to me, asking if I was aware of this aspect of the Henry Glover murder trial as part of the events that occurred in the early days of September 2005, when Glover had been shot in the chest by a New Orleans police officer in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. It was disturbing to reply that, in fact, I wasn’t.

On the Media: Times-Picayune wounded by what photographer didn’t shoot

It seems to me that local coverage of this facet of the story has been surprisingly sparse. While Alex Brandon’s testimony was covered in some of the reporting of the events of the trial, the photojournalist’s actions appear to have escaped homegrown notice or examination.

The heart of the problem: Brandon admitted during his testimony to complying with a police demand to not photograph the body of Henry Glover, who’d been shot by a police officer. While his editor at the Times-Picayune expected to be informed about incidents of violence or conversations with law enforcement personnel, the fact is that Brandon chose to ignore those directives. It seems that, from Brandon’s actions, some “orders” are to be followed, while others can apparently be ignored.

Alex Brandon may have chosen to not speak of what he had witnessed but not photographed out of fear for his own well-being, suspecting — or perhaps even knowing? — that the officers who were involved were capable of murder. Photos that serve as evidence of police officers looting stores are one thing; pictures of a crime scene that would easily serve an evidentiary purpose in an officer-involved shooting would likely be of greater consequence.

It is also equally possible that Brandon may have seen himself as being in an alliance with the officers with whom he’d become “embedded.” Brandon testified that many of the officers at the scene were his “good friends”; it appears that his decision to keep the lens cap on his camera may have been a favor to his buddies. He may have also feared loss of access to the coverage essential to his livelihood at a time when having a shot at a Pulitzer Prize must have been a powerful motivation.

I’m frankly curious as to when Alex Brandon was identified as a potential witness for the prosecution — did he come forward before the indictments were issued, or was he subpoenaed after the fact?

If I were faced with this situation in real time, I admit that I have to wonder: What would I have done? I do know that this is not the path to justice I would wish to appear to support through silence or inaction, especially if it meant that the officers involved would potentially remain on active duty. I realize, too, that it’s also much easier to ponder such things in the abstract and from a distance.

I wonder if the police officers charged in the Henry Glover case would have attempted to conceal Glover’s wrongful death if there had been photos of the scene at Habans Elementary School taken by a respected photojournalist.

Finally, I can’t help but wonder if Alex Brandon witnessed anything else he’s not come forward about, other instances where justice isn’t simply being delayed, but is instead being denied.

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2 thoughts on “Discretionary orders

  1. Excellent expose. I wish you were the journalist writing this story. Oh wait, you are!
    You have an exquisite way of sussing though and explaining NOPD issues which, you are well aware, uncoil my sense of taste and timing.
    You know how much I still hate and fear those feral lawmen in general and as regards the Federal Flood in particular.
    That said, however, I’ve been up all night thinking about this photographer. After finally finding sleep, I again dreamed of being in New Orleans that 1st week after the levees failed. I woke up thinking of the look on everyone’s faces who faced unprecedented, inhumane and frankly insane choices, including myself. Other than what I’ve already written about, some of the things I witnessed never made it to the news and may never get past me either.
    I cannot in good conscience hold much against anyone caught in that Kaftkatrina Nighmare of 8/29, especially a reporter on the ground who got too close to his subject as there was nothing but Too-Close-For-Comfort around every corner every minute of every day and night.
    But such grace does not extend to murder or the NOPD. Lawlessness may work on the frontier but not in the city.
    Alex Brandon was not a NOPD cop. But he was also not only a cop reporter, but deeply embedded with his subject. He was an instructor, often with the cops, to the public on all aspects of carrying and operating personal firearms. The only reason I say this is because the people I’ve met who do this sort of work with firearms, both cop and civilian, don’t impress me as reckless chumps who mess around the Law.

    Thanks again for a great article.

  2. Thanks for the praise, but I’m no journalist. If I had to make my living from writing, I’m fairly confident that I’d starve to death in record-breaking time.

    While I am troubled by Alex Brandon’s actions at Habans Elementary School, it’s his choices after that event I consider to be profoundly disturbing. Did he fail to act in a way that could have brought the involved officers to justice with greater expediency? While his actions are perhaps not (technically) criminal, it’s almost impossible for me to see them as being “right” or exempt from careful consideration.

    I also wonder why this story has flown so far below the local media’s radar (at least as far as I’ve been able to determine) while being reported elsewhere. Another example (from ProPublica): In Post-Katrina Police Shooting, Photographer and Cop Witnessed Key Events, Didn’t Come Forward

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