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Chief: Kudos to 'The Hat'
Success has many authors, unless you're former District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. Nicknamed 'The Hat" for his trademark black homburg, Jordan resigned a month ago after leading his office to the brink of bankruptcy. Asked who deserves credit for the recent dramatic decline in the so-called '701" releases of jailed suspects waiting to be charged, some criminal justice professionals give Jordan the cold shoulder. They prefer to lavish praise on interim DA Keva Landrum-Johnson, who took charge Oct. 31. But Police Chief Warren Riley, who praises Landrum's knowledge of the state criminal justice system, says Jordan also deserves some credit for the drop in 701 releases. 'He was a good person and we worked closely together on the 10-point plan," Riley says, referring to a pact he and Jordan co-signed in March to improve working relations between cops and prosecutors. 'The fact is that 701 releases declined from 580 in the month of January to just four in November (as of Nov. 28). Certainly a portion of that credit is attributable to him." In a congressional hearing on post-Katrina crime earlier this year, local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten blamed Jordan's policies for an explosion of monthly 701 releases that peaked in January, at 580. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, told Congress members in a separate hearing that Jordan got more than his share of the blame for sensational crimes linked to the releases. To stop official finger pointing, DAs and police chiefs should be held jointly accountable for such releases, Goyeneche says. " Johnson

 

 

Critic Pans NOPD Brass
Texas State University criminal justice expert Peter Scharf delivered his harshest criticism of the NOPD's leadership since Hurricane Katrina as the department prepared to graduate one of its largest recruit classes ever late last week. 'Does size matter if you don't know what to do?" Scharf asked. 'Not only are they awash in murders, they are out of ideas. More money and more cops is not an idea." Looking to 2008, Scharf said, 'The question is: Why is an increase in murders more likely than a decrease in murders? Or, why is a decrease in murders more likely?" Police Superintendent Warren Riley fired back angrily at the professor, after attending an national conference last week on 'intelligence-led policing" in Washington D.C. 'Peter Scharf and I are at different ends," Riley says. 'He works out of a vacuum and that vacuum is to criticize the New Orleans Police Department, which he has done for many years." Now entering his third year as the city's top cop, Riley also says NOPD is as innovative as any police department in the country, despite the loss of personnel and infrastructure from Hurricane Katrina while battling the same social ills 'plaguing" other cities. 'Nobody recognizes the crime problems better than the members of the New Orleans Police Department, and nobody is working harder to resolve those problems than these men and women," the chief says. 'The local criminal justice system is more focused on getting better than it has been for the last 20 or 30 years." Bob Stellingworth, president of the private New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, who once worked under Scharf at the UNO Center for Society Law & Justice, has sided with the chief: 'Peter is entitled to his opinion. I think it's a little harsh. There are positive things going on. I wish he'd come to the city and get more involved, and he might be able to understand what we are doing better." " Johnson

 

 

Born on the Bayou
It seems that Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes are ripe for the picking when it comes to Louisiana governors selecting legislative directors. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal last week named Tommy Williams, who has lived in both Houma and Thibodaux, as his legislative director. It's a sink or swim situation, as Jindal, who takes office in January, plans on calling at least one special session on ethics (and possibly another to deal with business taxes) before the 2008 regular session kicks off in late March. Brigadier Gen. Hunt Downer, a Republican from Houma who formerly served as House speaker, is currently finishing up his stint as legislative director for outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat. Downer, who ran for governor against Jindal and Blanco in 2003, had expressed interest in staying on the job, but now is clearly out of the running. The legislative liaison post is a key appointment for any governor, particularly when the opposing political party dominates the Legislature. To be certain, the liaison's relationship with lawmakers will take on added significance for Jindal, who has staked his administration's future on a heavy policy agenda in his first 100 days. Williams, 68, is no legislative rookie. He retired last year after 38 years as BellSouth's vice president for regulatory and external affairs. Williams, who says he was recruited by Jindal's team for the post, represented BellSouth before lawmakers during eight full regular sessions and numerous special sessions. 'I will approach the Legislature like I always have," Williams says. 'I've developed many relationships over the years, and I'll continue to build on that. I'm looking forward to carrying forth the administration's agenda and working with everyone to move the state forward." Williams says the new Legislature seems poised to unite behind Jindal's reform agenda " 'but I am ready for any challenges that might come up." " Alford

 

 

Cabinet Secretaries
Next With most of his inner circle chosen, Jindal now moves on to the task of naming department secretaries. For the most part, it'll be a clean slate, although Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle seems poised to retain his position. 'Things are looking good for him," says one close to the transition process, 'but nothing is official yet." Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny Bradberry also seems to be in good standing, but the word on keeping Economic Development Secretary Michael Olivier is said to be less than encouraging. Jindal's various transition committees presented the governor-elect with names of potential candidates last week, and Jindal is expected to start making appointments as early as this week. In addition to appointing 11 department heads, Jindal still has to choose an executive counsel and commissioner of administration. For the latter, a top name in political circles remains Baton Rouge Area Chamber Director Stephen Moret, who worked on Jindal's 2003 campaign for governor. " Alford

 

 

Session Dates Still Open
An early Mardi Gras season has Team Jindal scrambling to find appropriate dates for his much-touted special session on ethics. While Jindal originally wanted to hold the gathering soon after his Jan. 14 inauguration, the new legislative leadership is looking post-Carnival, possibly starting Feb. 10 or later. Hoping to avoid the nitpicking that has sunk ethics bills in the past, Jindal and his advisers are preparing to hold committee hearings on the package prior to the special session, but no firm dates for those meetings have been announced either. As for handicapping the special session, Blueprint Louisiana, for one, is predicting a clean sweep. Matt Stuller, chairman of the group, says 32 of 39 incoming senators are backing Blueprint's agenda, which mirrors Jindal's ethics priorities. In the House, Blueprint claims 73 of the 105 members. 'These numbers suggest super-majorities in both houses," says Stuller. " Alford New Cards Needed Laurie White, judge-elect of Criminal District Court Section 'A," may need some new business cards. A seasoned prosecutor-turned-criminal defense attorney, White's red-and-white business cards give contact information for her law office on one side and " should the occasion arise " a message for her clients to give police in the event of an arrest: 'Dear Officer, I choose not to speak without my attorney. This does not mean I am guilty " it means I choose to exercise my right to silence. Please call my attorney " her number is on the other side. Thank you." White defeated defense attorney Juana Marina Lombard in the Nov. 20 runoff election by a margin of 52 to 48 percent. " Johnson

 

 

War on Drugs Over?
More than 1,000 people " including retired law enforcement officers " are expected to attend the 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference here Wednesday through Saturday (Dec. 5-8), at The Astor Crowne Plaza, 739 Canal St. The conference is led by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that favors treating drug addiction as a public health issue rather than as a crime. The group also supports the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana and 'informed policy debate" on whether to legalize other outlawed substances. 'This is the leading gathering in the world of people who think the drug war is doing more harm than good," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Alliance. 'If you think addiction should be treated as a public health issue and not as a crime, this conference is the place to be. It is a cross-section of people whose experiences with drugs and the criminal justice system is incredibly diverse. But all believe current policy relies too heavily on law enforcement." Cosponsors include the ALCU and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group headed by a former New Jersey state trooper. Nadelmann says the Drug Policy Alliance chose New Orleans for its biennial conference partly because 'Louisiana has one of the fastest growing incarceration rates for people with drug offenses in the country for the last 20 years." The conference includes meetings on criminal justice issues as well as yoga sessions and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. New Orleanians interested in attending should call 522-3949 or visit www.safestreetsnola.org/who/ or www.drugpolicy.org " Johnson

 

 

Color Wheel
Remember the local artists we told you about over the summer, the group that had not settled on a name for its message of racial unity? It was originally dubbed 'Color Blind," but writer Orissa Arend, who has vision in only one eye, objected. The group settled on a more eye-catching name " 'Color Wheel." Spokesperson Ron Bechet says the group will screen a film about race relations in Texas " 'The Two Towns of Jasper" " at the home of Courtney Egan and David Sullivan, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 6), 2500 Constance St. at Second Street. " Johnson

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