Silence is Violence

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Transforming the NOPD

Date: Sun, May. 16, 2010

Yesterday, Mitch Landrieu made an important move in his early days as Mayor of New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu formally invited the United States Department of Justice to intervene in the operation of the New Orleans Police Department, recognizing that even the appointment of a new police chief cannot ensure the total transformation the department needs.

Immediately before making this announcement, Mayor Landrieu invited to his office a range of community leaders and organizations who recently signed a letter attesting the need for federal oversight of local law enforcement; Ken Foster and Baty Landis represented SilenceIsViolence at the meeting. During the meeting, federal agents heard directly from these community voices. We were assured that this was only the first of many such meetings, and that these lines of communication will remain open during federal assessment and plans for assistance in New Orleans. It is anticipated that Mayor Landrieu’s request to the Department of Justice will lead to a consent decree and a court-appointed monitor of NOPD processes and actions. Community representatives also asked that any reforms be codifed and formalized, to make sure they stick this time (in contrast to attempted reforms from past eras); and that the entire criminal justice system—including courts, jails, and post-conviction policies—be included in the federal assessment.

It was a bold response on the part of Mayor Landrieu to a blunt message from the community regarding deep distrust of the NOPD. As the Mayor prepares to appoint a new NOPD Superintendent, we hope that his approach will set the tone for a much-needed spirit of partnership between the citizens of New Orleans and our next police chief.