Crime & Safety
March 28th, 2012
This report’s longer in coming than most because I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out what’s going on with the NOPD. While I’ve been asking “where’s the crime?”, the Times-Picayune managed to wheedle figures out of the NOPD that showed crime was actually higher last year, rather than lower as I thought.
But the T-P got the official figures the NOPD had to accurately report to the FBI, and not the anecdotal incidents supplied to NOcrimeline. That (and other incidents outlined below) leads me to believe that Police Chief Ronal Serpas—a veteran of the old-time NOPD—was using old-time NOPD tactics: He is cooking the books, fudging the figures, whatever you want to call it. He is reporting crimes—if at all—as minor offenses rather than as serious as they really are.
Many crimes are not even making the NOPD’s online Crime Map that Serpas bragged would keep citizens informed of crimes in the city. Remember the murder and robbery of the Slidell optometrist in the French Quarter last fall? That crime never has appeared on the Crime Map. Remember the 2 fights (one this winter and one last fall) at Jax Brewery that left a couple of guys beat senseless? Both of those were first listed as “simple battery” until the public reported details, and then—and only then—did the NOPD upgrade the crimes and make reports available.
More recently, there’s been mystery surrounding cops shooting to death 2 felons. In the first case, where the felon emptied his pistol while trying to kill 3 cops, the NOPD pretty well explained what happened. But in the second, where a cop shot an unarmed felon during a drug raid on a house, many questions remain. Serpas blamed it on the cop/shooter not giving investigators a statement of what happened (never mind that constitutionally he had the right not to). What about the other cops involved in the raid? Didn’t they see anything? (Personally, if I saw a half-naked, 6’3” tall, young, athletic guy bounding down the stairs toward me, I’d shoot too would shoot first and ask questions later.) But the lack of information in both cases leaves the public wondering what happened.
Cover-ups: Other recent crimes the NOPD refuses to talk about:
- Minimized crime: Krewe du Vieux parade, 1900 block of Burgundy Street in the Marigny Triangle, 2.4.12—A fight broke out in a melee involving at least 4 guys that the police categorized as “disturbing the peace.” They ignored the fact that 2 guys were knifed and had to be hospitalized.
- Sloppy police work: Last Call Bar, 806 Conti St., 3.12.12—Neighbors report a loud ruckus among several women in front of the bar around 8 a.m. Before cops arrive, up to 7 witnesses view one woman brandishing a gun. The cops write it off as a drug violation, never asking the witnesses about the reported weapon. The 8th District refuses to issue a report; citizens wonder why this gun wasn’t taken off the street.
- Down-graded assault: Verti Marte, 1201 Royal St., 3.17.12—A gutter punk, impatient for his food around 3 a.m., smashes a young girl in the face when she tries to calm him down. “Split her face open, broke bones and her nose, knocked her out cold,” is the way our informant described it. Cops describe it as a “simple battery” (remember the Jax Brewery brouhahas?) and refuse to issue a report on the crime.
- Report refused: Royal and Dumaine streets, 3.18.12—Two guys get beaten up badly, it’s all over TV, but the NOPD refuses to issue a report.
Those are just a few recent cover-ups that are becoming more and more prevalent. In each case, the 8th District refers us to the Public Information Office, which stonewalls us despite its mandate “for gathering pertinent news worthy information from all commands for dissemination to the news media.” When one of the officers there is courteous enough to respond, it is to direct us to the NOPD
’s Record Room where there is a $20 fee for each “public” report issued.
What else is Serpas hiding from the public? Read on.
Not public information:
Chief Serpas was caught with his hand in the cookie jar again when he assigned a take-home city car for Remi Braden (left) to use when he hired her at $91,000 to work directly under him as commander of the NOPD
’s Public Affairs Division or Public Information Office (or whatever they’re calling it at any given time).
Her illegal use of the car came to light after she had a minor traffic accident with it last month. Serpas’ chief of staff, Maj. James Treadway, couldn’t quite cover it up, though he tried: He didn’t require her to take a mandatory drug/alcohol test after the accident, and the damage recorded in the official report was more severe than indicated. So when she was outed, Super Chief Serpas had to take her Crown Vic away.
After noting earlier the difficulties in getting Braden’s office to divulge public information, it seemed odd to look back at the NOPD
news release noting her hiring in March of last year. It said Braden’s duties would include “…helping to ensure the NOPD’s commitments to transparency, accountability, collaboration and integrity in the service to the people of New Orleans.” Perhaps she hasn’t been on the job long enough to look up what those big words mean. To the people of New Orleans, they mean nothing, coming from the NOPD
One of the things she did do, though, was “unsubscribe” from NOcrimeline
. Guess she didn’t want to hear anything bad said about her boss. Hope she sees this column.
Another Crown Vic cover-up:
No more had Braden’s woes been exposed than another NOPD
cop ran afoul of the law (maybe), though the NOPD
again characteristically won’t reveal any details.
Apparently a police cruiser driven by an unnamed 8th District cop ran down 2 pedestrians a week ago Saturday night (3.17.12) at St. Joseph Street and St. Charles Avenue in the CBD
. According to Jason Williams, an attorney who’s representing the injured couple who are in their 30’s, said they were walking near the intersection around midnight when the cop car—without flashing lights or siren—ran the red light, careened around the corner from St. Joseph onto St. Charles, hit a taxicab, jumped the curb, struck the couple, and came to rest against a sign in the parking lot on the corner.
made no comment on the accident until 3 days after Williams disclosed it, and then issued only a one-paragraph statement that said it was investigating. A cop on the scene tried to prevent a passer-by from snapping pictures, but the man, a lawyer, basically told him to go to hell and kept on snapping. Another black mark on the NOPD
’s “public” information dismal effort.
Apparently Serpas doesn’t consider running down citizens with a cop car as serious as an officer expressing his opinions online. When 8th District Det. Jason Giroir (right) posted some dumb thoughts about that shooting in Florida, Serpas immediately suspended him without pay—never mind his First Amendment rights—then fired him the next day.
To most, Giroir’s comments might seem inappropriate, insensitive, and even racist, but if making dumb comments was a crime, most of us would be doing life-without-parole. And consider that Girior—less than a month ago—was the target of a thug who tried to gun him and 2 fellow officers down. Those 2 were hit by gunfire, Girior missed being wounded when his taser gun caught a bullet intended for him.
Got to think things like that make you a lot more sensitive to who might be a thug. And if wearing a hoody shouldn’t indicate someone’s a hood, go back and read recent robbery reports from the French Quarter and see how many of the robbers were wearing a hoody.
What now, Serpas?:
In January there was nearly a murder a day. Then there was the hubbub over Serpas releasing the criminal records of murder victims (which essentially showed that, in most cases, those who “act like a thug, die like a thug.”) Then his plan to plaster a bright orange sticker on houses searched for drugs—which could be easily and legally removed immediately—ended before it started, sticking CrimeStoppers with 5,000 of the useless signs.
Caught clueless on stopping the killings, being forced to discard the policy on revealing criminal backgrounds, and stopping the stickers before being stuck with the program, Serpas lost much of the swagger he brought with him when he became chief in May, 2010. Now, in press conferences, he looks much humbled by the experience and too much like a deer in the headlights. And after the latest mishaps, he’s looking more and more like a dog slinking away with his tail between his legs.
was among the first to champion choosing Serpas
as New Orleans new police chief
. Now we might have to be among the first to suggest that he’s overstayed his welcome.
In the 2 years since he’s been chief here, the crime problem hasn’t improved, his cops are still seen as racists, he’s jettisoned many good cops over minor infractions that could have been remedied, and now citizens must endure his lack of candor.
He could improve the situation immensely and immediately by demanding his commanders come clean and tell the public what’s going on in their neighborhoods. Forget words like “transparency,” “accountability,” “collaboration,” and “integrity.” Just tell citizens what’s happening, where, when and how, so they can protect themselves from crime.
Serpas keeps reiterating that he’s death on lying (“If you lie, you die”)—he needs to remember that a lie is not only what you say, it’s also what you don’t
It’s time for Serpas to tell the public what they want to know about crime in their community.
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As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome at NOcrimeline@gmail.com
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