After weeks of demands from Danatus King, president of the NAACP's New Orleans chapter, Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a meeting to address community concerns about the New Orleans Police Department — specifically racial profiling — last night at First Emmanuel Baptist Church, a mere 2.6 mile drive from Christian Unity Baptist Church, where King simultaneously held a meeting on the same topic.
Like District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, I was able to attend both meetings, but because I'm unable to bend space, I could only attend the beginning of Landrieu's meeting and the end of the NAACP's meeting. The Times-Picayune's Andrew Vanacore and Richard Rainey can therefore provide a fairer, fuller account of both. Same goes for WWL-TV and WVUE.
I do have some pictures, though.
(More after the jump)
"There are lots of issues in the city of New Orleans. We have to deal with them forthrightly," Landrieu began before opening the meeting up for public comment.
The meeting at the First Emmanuel Baptist Church was conducted in the same format as Landrieu's annual budget town hall meetings: short statements from city government followed by comments and questions from the audience and ending with the city's responses.
NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas and the city's eight NOPD district commanders attended.
Among the audience members who spoke were Rev. Raymond Brown, who noted an improvement with the NOPD since the unveiling of the department's consent decree last year.
"On the issue of racial profiling, it's a very tense issue ... All over this country, ou have rumors that cops are stopping African Americans, and it's backed up by some studies," he said. "Since the New Orleans Police Department instituted the consent decree, racial profiling has slowed down. It has not stopped."
The man whose back is pictured above is named Curtis Bordenave, who called the NAACP's focus on profiling and allegedly discriminatory stop and frisk tactics a "waste of time." He said he asked friends who have children what they thought about accusations that young black men were unfairly targeted for stops.
"They said, 'If stopping them will save their lives, stop them.' ... The white community should ask the police to pick up their kids. We're getting the bulk of the resources," Bordenave said, adding that he favored stringent curfew enforcement as well. "If my kids are out in the French Quarter late at night, I want them taken in."
Bordenave, however, added that the city and the NOPD should take pains to inform citizens of their rights during a stop to avoid abuse.
Now, onto the NAACP's meeting at Christian Unity Baptist Church. The meeting was publicized primarily on radio station WBOK. Through much of the evening WBOK host Gerod Stevens served as a moderator before the packed house.
King read a list of demands to the city he said would be presented to Landrieu today. Among them: an immediate end to racial profiling, the firing of any officer found to engage in racial profiling and reforms to the way the NOPD conducts and records field interviews during stops.
Among those in attendance was Steve Parker, chief of the Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Memphis. Parker helped to negotiate and complete the NOPD consent decree and is now part of the committee that will select a contractor to monitor implementation.
"There is no consequence for policemen who not only profile us, they mistreat us, harass us and murder us," said WBOK host and general manager Paul Beaulieu, addressing Parker. "Mr. Parker, that's why we are dependent on the Justice Department."
A number of speakers, including Beaulieu, pointed out the absence of City Council members (other than Cantrell) and Landrieu.
"I think it's significant that the people we elect to represent us politically are not here," Beaulieu said.
One man, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, even called for a recall drive.
"It's a slap in the face that the mayor isn't here with the NAACP," he said. "Let's get a recall petition tomorrow. I'll be the first one to sign it."
"I haven't been here all night, but I didn't want the night to pass without coming here and giving you the respect you deserve," Cantrell said, after she arrived from the other meeting. "We need to create a community agenda, because it is majority African Americans not just committing the crime, but being victimized by it."