Silence is Violence

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Ronal Serpas

Date: Thu, May. 26, 2011 A petition has begun circulating calling upon Mayor Mitch Landrieu to remove Ronal Serpas from the position of police chief of the City of New Orleans. With respect for the extreme challenges facing the NOPD as well as Mayor Landrieu in their efforts to make New Orleans safe, we believe every New Orleanian should carefully review current circumstances in local law enforcement, weigh the stakes for the lives and safety of our families and communities, and consider signing this petition. The petition is available on our website (www.silenceisviolence.org), and SilenceIsViolence will assist in collecting signed petitions in an effort to bring our voices to City Hall (see instructions below).

Every police officer in this city accepts a herculean personal and professional task—the Superintendent perhaps most of all. Ronal Serpas took on a deeply complex and difficult job when he agreed to transform the NOPD. He arrived here at a disadvantage, given his past with the Department. This being said, Mr. Serpas has not managed to rise above this past, nor chart a viable new path toward safety in New Orleans. In particular, we have found the following actions and approaches to be counter-productive to achieving a safe city:
An inability to break the cycle of corruption. Mr. Serpas has demonstrated both a personal and a professional inability to break the decades-old cycle of corruption plaguing the NOPD. His personal entanglements have cast doubt upon his own credibility, and his lack of decisive action when confronted with apparent corruption in the department shows a lack of professional focus. The “You Lie, You Die” dictate has not been applied as promised.

Criminalization, disengagement, and antagonism of victims. Under Mr. Serpas’s administration, the victim-service department has been reduced to just one detective. Victims of violence and their families have difficulty accessing information, support, and any sense of partnership with the NOPD. This is a human failing, and a lost opportunity for natural partners in combatting violence. Prior arrest records—not convictions, but arrests—of homicide victims are broadcast as part of NOPD-disseminated notices about their deaths: Hardly the way to convince families to participate in criminal justice, or the broader public to engage in problems that we must address in unity.

A lack of clear strategy for addressing and collaborating with cultural traditions and practices, especially street practices. Heightened and often clumsy (particularly around Carnival season 2011) policing of cultural traditions and practices has antagonized members of the diverse cultural communities who also should be natural partners for the police. We support the enforcement of codes. However, enforcing codes and policing cultural practices must include communication and collaboration with these groups in question, or the police lose valuable credibility and cooperation in the community.


New Orleans is at a crossroads, and the direction taken by our leaders at this juncture will speak volumes about their commitment to hear and to serve the citizens of this city, and about their human interest in our pain. Morale within the NOPD is at a nadir, with even the most dedicated officers struggling to find motivation and support for their work. More than a distraction, the current crisis within the NOPD is actively dangerous. The U.S. Department of Justice, and Mr. Landrieu himself, have declared that community engagement and the public’s trust and confidence are essential to successfully fighting violent crime and to sustainable reform of the NOPD.


The community is calling for Mr. Landrieu to provide leadership, to stand up for us, and to address the painful realities of violence in our streets and homes.

Signed petitions can be delivered or mailed, or faxed to our office: 2702 Chartres Street, New Orleans LA 70117. Or call (504) 948-0917 to request or submit petitions. There also is an online version of the petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/20/petition-of-no-confidence-in-new-orleans-police-chief-ronal-serpas/