NEW ORLEANS – On a day where the New Orleans police chief outlined a plan to reduce homicides and violent crime, he came under fire for his policy of revealing the arrest records not only of accused gunmen, but also of the victims they shot and killed.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas told council members that much of the past year has been spent rebuilding the infrastructure of the NOPD, reforming the homicide unit, implementing pro-active policing of violent crime hot spots, activating community oriented policing, winning more cooperation from crime witnesses, and standing up the police crime lab, which no longer has the back log he found when he took over the department.
“And 2012 is a year we’ve really gotta rebuild this police department,” Serpas said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the only department we’ve got. We’ve got to quit kicking it around.”
But Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge Morrell questioned the chief's policy of revealing the arrest and crime records -- not only of the accused -- but also of the victims of recent shootings.
“I would strongly encourage you to stop it because I think the long-term effect on the community is not good,” Hedge Morrell said.
Serpas responded, saying, “But this community is now talking about it.”
Yes, she agreed, people are talking about it. But she suggested it desensitizes people to the violence.
“I’ve also heard a lot of people saying, well, it doesn’t really matter because it’s criminals killing criminals,” Hedge Morrell said. “Well, you know what? There's always collateral damage.”
And when it came time for the public to comment about the NOPD’s efforts to reduce violent crime, one woman argued the policy of citing arrest records alienates people at a time when the NOPD should be trying to encourage their cooperation.
“On a human level this policy scandalizes families, further wounding and traumatizing them during their grieving period,” said one speaker. “And it alienates a community that has a history of non cooperation with cops during investigations.”