The New Orleans Police Department had a reputation for corruption long before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the summer of 2005. For decades, the department was infected by a culture of discrimination, abuse, and lawlessness. That culture spilled out into the open in the week after the storm. During that brief period, police officers shot and killed three unarmed civilians.
As Katrina’s flood water receded, the department's dysfunction was laid bare for all to see. A Justice Department investigation found that the police department was loosely held together by an even looser code of conduct. Soon after, the city was forced into an agreement to reform its police department. It seemed a uniquely awful situation.