Ex-NOPD chief would like to see return of community policing

Meg Farris talks about community policing in the New Orleans area.

NEW ORLEANS - In the wake of protests against police shootings, both a former chief and community leader say community policing worked, and should be funded and returned to the city. 

"We need policy makers to actually come forward and put the money where the mouth is and say, 'You know, what I don't know what the right number of police officers is, but I know we don't have enough to do community policing,'" said Dr. Ronal Serpas, a former police chief in New Orleans, Nashville and in the state of Washington. He is now a professor of Criminology and Justice at Loyola University.

Serpas and a local reverend say community policing should return.
 
"Community policing advances one thing, which is the most important, and that is trust and confidence. But from the police investigative standpoint, what community policing advances is information flow, and without information flow, you can't solve these crimes," said Serpas.

"I believe it's common sense. I mean, it just makes sense for there to be a relationship between police officers and the community residents. I think it does build trust," said Reverend Jamaal Weathersby, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.

But Serpas says lack of a budget to hire more officers cancelled the program that was proven to work.

He also says that most people arrested over and over have a mental illness or addiction.

"Those people are being treated by jailers and cops instead of doctors and nurses. When did we ever think that was going to work?" asked Serpas.

While he says politicians need to fund community policing and mental health treatment, Reverend Weathersby says his congregation makes sure they are equally outraged about neighbors killing neighbors, as they are when there are police shootings.

"All lives matter. It doesn't matter who takes the life. It doesn't matter when the life is taken, how the life, all lives matter," said Weathersby.  

He says historically, there has been a lack of trust among minorities towards police. But he believes the current public dialogue can repair a partnership on both sides. In fact, he had an officer come today to talk to his young campers.

"I think it's foolish for anyone to try and pit the community against the police officers because, I mean, it's just, it would be total chaos if we didn't have law enforcement," said Weathersby.  

Dr. Serpas says in Seattle and Miami, when police are given alternatives to arrest for the mentally ill, and drug and alcohol addiction, they use it almost every time, otherwise those people spend a life in prison, repeating two days at a time. And that cycle of arrests, he says, causes community anger. 

(© 2017 WWL)


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