by Kevin Allman
Alex Woodward contributed to this report.
Silence Is Violence, the citizen activist group that sprang up after the murders of Dinerral Shavers and Helen Hill in 2007, is calling for Mayor Mitch Landrieu to dismiss NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
In an email this afternoon, the group cited three reasons it was calling for Serpas' ouster: "An inability to break the cycle of corruption," "Criminalization, disengagement, and antagonism of victims" and "A lack of clear strategy for addressing and collaborating with cultural traditions and practices, especially street practices."
Tamara Jackson, the group's director of victim and community outreach, told Gambit this afternoon:
"Today is not anything significant. We've met with several organizations that have this position. Silence Is Violence works with victims of crime, and (releasing the petition) was a response to their concerns, and we felt the need to move forward with their concerns. ...
"Safety is a major issue. When you have the community that already has trust issues, and then you have that officer — and not all officers are bad, but they're in the uniform and it becomes a dangerous situation when they go out into the community — and the community doesn't trust them. They're hesitant about how to interact with the community because of barriers that already exist. ... So it's hard on both levels. It's hard for the policemen to go out, and it's hard for the community to trust them.
"Serpas for sure needs to be removed. And we need somebody, maybe the federal government, to take over, so people can feel safe and that the community can feel safe, as well as the officers feeling safe about doing their job.
"We're the voice of the community. We just ask that people sign on, and their voices will be heard through their signatures. We're asking Mitch to fulfill his promise."
Silence is Violence is the group that led the 2007 crime march on New Orleans City Hall, where an estimated 5,000 New Orleanians excoriated then-mayor Ray Nagin and then-chief Warren Riley. The march was reenacted in last Sunday's episode of the series Treme.
We've reached out to Landrieu and Serpas' offices for reaction, and will update if there's any comment issued.