Louisiana AG Landry mischaracterizes NOLA consent decree

On Aug. 15, 2017, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wrote a guest editorial in the New Orleans Advocate lambasting the city’s 2012 Department of Justice-mandated consent decree. The decree, issued after years of institutional abuses were uncovered in a 2010 federal investigation, called for widespread changes in New Orleans Police Department policy to address the Justice Department’s concerns. By characterizing the decree as “disastrous,” Landry betrays his department’s commitment to the fair administration of justice in the state.

In his guest editorial, Landry makes numerous dubious assertions to support his claim that the consent decree is harmful to the city. For instance, he laments the “unelected judge and … high-priced attorneys” tasked with ensuring the NOPD’s compliance, conveniently ignoring the similarly undemocratic selection of police recruits. Landry’s critique of legal professionals, likewise, rings hollow. Bizarrely, he appears to question the ability of legal experts to make legal decisions.

Landry also bemoans the policies implemented after 2012 for “[coddling] criminals,” a troubling assertion. Forfeiting his responsibility as chief legal officer for all Louisianans, Landry instead writes off anyone stopped by police. His liberal use of the word “criminal” masks a disturbing yet pervasive sentiment, one which predetermines guilt in a hypermasculine demonstration of one’s toughness on crime. From a legal perspective, as Landry surely knows, individuals not yet convicted of a crime are not criminals. Such a distinction is not simply a semantic one. The NOPD’s foremost obligation is to protect and serve its citizens. This duty extends to those citizens stopped by police.

Finally, Landry’s editorial misses a vital component of successful policing: community trust. In the years before the Justice Department’s investigation, a troubling number of NOPD officers were cited for crimes. In 1994, for instance, patrolman Len Davis ordered a hit on a mother of three, Kim Groves, after she reported him to Internal Affairs.

In 2005 alone, officers were charged with aggravated rape, destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice and civil rights deprivation, to name only a few. Undoubtedly the ranks of the NOPD are lined overwhelmingly with courageous men and women. Nevertheless, their efforts are undermined when lax recruitment standards and inadequate force training permeate the department. Ironically, by condemning policy changes such as canine and trap-usage restrictions, Landry underestimates the NOPD’s capabilities. At its essence, the consent decree mandates a system of accountability.

The city’s officers are surely up to the task.

The past few years have proven fraught for police-community relations nationwide. In such an atmosphere, the NOPD desperately needs reforms to indicate its willingness to improve. Despite Landry’s protestations, the consent decree sends such a signal.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Nketiah is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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