Mayor and NAACP hold meetings tackling racial profiling concerns

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 10:38 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 25 at 10:41 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- At two separate meetings Monday night, community members sounded off on violent crime and allegations of racial profiling within the New Orleans Police Department.

In Central City, their captive audience was Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

"I was looking for your leadership when we had the incident in the French Quarter. We didn't hear anything. Nor did we hear anything from our City Council," said New Orleans resident Michael Dummett.

When surveillance video surfaced after Mardi Gras showing two black teens being approached and then pinned down by plain clothes law enforcement officers in the French Quarter, outraged community members wanted answers.

The teens were apparently waiting for a parent -- also an NOPD officer -- who was picking up dinner nearby.

After weeks of demands from the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP and the community, Landrieu held a community meeting at First Emmanuel Baptist Church in Central City.

"I wouldn't want to be an officer having to face a young man that's going to blow my head off, because I might overreact too," said Sharon Alexis.

On Monday night's agenda concerns over alleged racial profiling within the NOPD and violent crime across the city. In the audience was Alexis, who believes creating real jobs and better education for the city's youth will help solve the problem. "We have to change the profile of those young men. How do we change it? Knowledge. Knowledge is power," said Alexis.

While some criticized the NOPD and other law enforcement agencies actions, others voiced their support for the police superintendent and his officers.

"You come in here, vilify this man, vilify these officers. They're trying to prevent crime," said one member of the audience.

"If stop and frisk will save my child's life, stop 'em. Stop 'em. If picking up kids is our community is going to save them, pick them up," said another community member.

One-by-one community members offered up ideas to help stop racial profiling and the city's crime problem: re-train police officers, tackle blight, buy guns off the street, get churches and parents more involved. They're simple solutions to complex issues and concerns over racial profiling, which both the mayor and police chief addressed.

"If a police officer judges somebody by their race, or their age, or their look or their heights, my commitment is to turn that out of here," Serpas said.

"There is no tolerance for racial profiling in this city because the young men need to know that they will not be judged by the color of their skin but they will be judged by their behavior," said Mayor Landrieu.

At a second community meeting hosted Monday night by the NAACP, the discussion was focused on the NOPD's practice of racial profiling when stopping and questioning people they consider suspicious.

"There is no way in the world that we can't as a community be a part of the equality of being able to go from one location to another without having to have the embarrassment of having our children put their hands out on a cop hood with handcuffs and use the terminology that it's for your protection and mine," said WBOK's Gerod Stevens. "You're the one with the gun."

Audience members voiced concern that the mayor was trying to divert attention from the issue by calling a meeting without going to the NAACP first.

One speaker said among recent developments that activated their demand to end racial profiling were reports by the city inspector general and the independent police monitor criticizing police for racial profiling.

 

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