Louisiana attorney general oversteps authority, causes conflict
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Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has made headlines recently by sparring with local and state officials over the growing presence of his office in New Orleans crime control. The growth of his investigative unit and his increase in duties that normally fall to police and sheriffs’ offices have angered city leaders. Landry’s newly rebranded crime prevention task force and his continued interference with New Orleans Police Department and its investigative team are clear violations of authority.
Landry, a former Republican congressman with Tea Party ties, took swift control of his office as attorney general as soon as he was elected. As a Republican attorney general, he has clashed with Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards over numerous issues ranging from state contracts to budget control. Many people have perceived Landry’s recent actions to increase the role and visibility of the state attorney general’s office as precursors to his entrance into the 2019 gubernatorial race, something he has firmly denied.
Citing New Orleans’ extreme crime rates as an epidemic, Landry has begun strengthening his office’s investigative unit and dispatching crime task forces to various parts of the city, despite resistance from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, who have voiced concerns that these actions risk the lives of police officers and state troopers.
“New Orleans is still in the state of Louisiana, the last time I checked. [Landrieu] doesn’t have the authority to kick me out,” Landry said in an interview with The New Orleans Advocate.
Landry’s task forces have made several arrests, including a high-speed chase resulting in the arrest of two carjackers. He has bragged openly about such accomplishments in the media. His success, however, has been unremarkable compared to that of NOPD. The attorney general’s office made or assisted with 16 arrests from October to December in contrast to the 5,463 arrests made by NOPD during the same period.
Landry’s attempts to supersede Landrieu and NOPD’s authority present a threat to local and state operations. The primary responsibility of the attorney general is prosecution, not crime control or prevention. Through his efforts to wrest power from state and city officials, he creates conflict in a state government whose primary focus should be on debt reduction and the ongoing fiscal crisis.
New Orleans’ high crime rate is an important issue, but reducing the power and authority of NOPD and the mayor’s office will not aid in crime reduction. Making significant steps in reducing the city’s crime will require a carefully coordinated response, which is not possible with the actions of the attorney general’s office. With the chaos in the federal government, unity and cooperation across party lines are more essential than ever. These are ideals for which Landry must sacrifice his own self-interests.
This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Camille is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.