(New Orleans, La.) Leaders from more than two dozen community organizations applaud Mayor Landrieu's invitation to the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene to enforce reforms and provide monitoring and oversight of the New Orleans Police Department.
For the past year, and then most frequently in the last two months, New Orleans advocates and concerned citizens have been meeting to discuss ways in which to involve the US Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights in systemic reform of the New Orleans Police Department. During a meeting on April 14, 2010, a group of advocates gathered at the LJI Office to discuss a campaign strategy for requesting U.S. Department of Justice intervention for the monitoring and supervision of the New Orleans Police Department. All in attendance agreed that hiring a new New Orleans Police Superintendent was not sufficient to force reform within the department.
On Tuesday, May 4, over two dozen organizations signed a letter addressed to Mr. Thomas E. Perez, Esq. Assistant Attorney General - Office of Civil Rights, requesting that the United States Department of Justice intervene in the reform of the NOPD through utilization of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which authorizes the Department of Justice to file civil lawsuits against law enforcement agencies that engage in a pattern of violating people's rights and obtain a court order to monitor and reform them.
Less than 24 hours later, Mayor Landrieu met with 16 of these leaders and 6 attorneys from the US Department of Justice, and then announced that he has invited the Justice Department to come to New Orleans and perform an assessment of the NOPD and the criminal justice system. Mayor Landrieu anticipates this assessment will eventually lead to a consent decree and federal oversight for the New Orleans Police Department.
None of this work would have been possible without the sacrifices and organizing committed organizing of criminal justice advocates and concerned New Orleans residents who have worked together for years. Moreover, this final community push for a judicially binding consent agreement could not have happened without the courageous leadership of those 26 groups and equal number of individuals who signed the May 4 letter to Mr. Perez. Most important, this effort marks a tremendous victory for community organizers, who work tirelessly to insure everyone's voice is heard when public policy is made. With less than 2 hours notice, 16 individuals gathered to meet with Mayor Landrieu and Justice Department attorneys. "We hope the meeting marks a fundamental change in how our local government interacts with the community. There was mutual respect in that room. Everyone was able to express the pain of past dealings with NOPD and our dysfunctional criminal justice system here in New Orleans, and then commit to each other to work collaboratively in the future," commented Barbara Major.
Those attending the meeting: Bertrain Butler - New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council; Lucas Diaz - Puentes NOLA; Ken Foster and Baty Landis - Silence is Violence; Norris Henderson - V.O.T.E.; Robert Horton and Ronald McCoy - Black Men United for Change; Allen James and Robert Goodwin - Safe Street/Strong Communities; Mary Howell; Mary Joseph - Children's Defense Fund; Carol Kolinchak - Juvenile Justice Project Louisiana; Barbara Major; Jacques Morial and Tracie Washington - Louisiana Justice Institute; and Malcolm Suber - American Friends Society.