Filed Under:  News, OpEd, Opinion

It all comes down to the money

5th November 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis
The Louisiana Weekly Editor

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
-1 Timothy 6:10

So a federal judge has not yet decided upon a course of action for the reformation of the New Orleans Police Department and the profiteers and fortune-seekers have already lined up and are ready to jump into the city’s next big Cash Grab?

We’ve seen this with post-recovery experts and other consultants who were brought in to tell us how to rebuild our homes, communities and lives? Some of those involved in the process, like former recovery czar Ed Blakely, clearly had no love or respect for the city and its people, while others, like some Road Home officials, were strictly in it for the money and couldn’t possibly care less that they were overseeing a recovery system that openly discriminated against Black and low-income New Orleans residents.

We’ve seen this with bidding contracts to tear down the city’s long-standing housing developments after Hurricane Katrina? And we’ve seen it with the Louisiana Department of Education after an unprecedented takeover of most of New Orleans’ underachieving public schools led to a spirited race first for public-school contracts and later for the right to establish charter schools in the city. It was like an urbanized version of the film Far and Away that chronicled Westward expansion to the lands west of the Mississippi River during the early days of this fledgling nation. The creation of a voucher system that further drained the public school system of much-needed funds provided a fitting exclamation point for the whole feeding-frenzy atmosphere.

Never mind that a judge ruled that the state violated the rights of Orleans Parish teachers, administrators and employees when they terminated their contracts after Katrina. A win’s a win, right?

It was like, when life gives Black folks lemons, make lemon meringue pies and lemonade and have a party to celebrate the struggles of people of color to gain an equal footing in America.

Late last month, The Lens reported that seven groups from across the U.S. are seeking to win the lucrative contract for overseeing the implementation of the NOPD consent decree. The seven groups are Hilliard Heintze, Pugh, Jones & Johnson, Vigilant Resources International, KeyPoint Government Solutions, Elite Performance Assess­ment Consultants, BDO Consult­ing and Guidepost Solutions.

Interestingly, the proposals are being reviewed by the Landrieu administration and the DOJ, the same entities that have adamantly refused to allow local citizens to play an active role in the process by assembling a civilian oversight committee. Very interesting.

The official reason given by the City and the DOJ for opposing the creation of a civilian oversight committee is that such an arrangement would make the process of implementing NOPD reforms that much more cumbersome and time-consuming. But what’s the most important goal of reforming the NOPD — getting it right or getting it fast?

As members of Community United for Change and others working for justice in New Orleans have already pointed out, the City, NOPD and DOJ had a chance to implement consent decree reforms after the conviction of former NOPD cop Len Davis more than a decade ago. If the department had been adequately reformed from top to bottom back then, Raymond Robair, Joseph Williams, Henry Glover, Steven Hawkins, Adolph Hawkins, James Rrissette and Ronald Madison — not to mention Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen — might be alive today,

These men were not simply casualties of war. They were living, breathing human beings who had families. They were sons, grandsons, nephews, uncles and fathers to others in the community.

It is infuriating and telling that there are some in this community who view these deaths and the subsequent actions of the Department of Justice as a reason to chase multimillion-dollar paychecks.

One of the more interesting “local” names to surface during the bidding process is that of local Urban League president Nolan Rollins. Mr. Rollins has not had a great deal to say over the past few years about issues like housing discrimination, police brutality or economic injustice in New Orleans but he did publicly support Mayor Mitch Landrieu when several Black leaders resigned from the search committee to find a new police chief and accused the mayor of stacking the deck in favor of NOPD chief Ronal Serpas. Now he’s getting a shot at making some real cash… Good for him.

But here’s the tricky part. Rollins is in cahoots with none other than NYC’s Notorious P.I.G., former NYPD chief Howard Safir. Yeah, that Howard Safir. The one who stood proudly at the helm when Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was sodomized in a New York police precinct by a cop, African immigrant Amadou Diallo was gunned down by NYPD cops in a hail of 41 bullets and Patrick Dorismond was also murdered by an undercover NYPD officer. Not exactly the kind of person most people would select to oversee the implementation of a federal consent decree.

Mayor Landrieu’s crime-fighting partner Spike Lee knows a thing or two about Howard Safir and “Giuliani time” — he should ask him about it someday.

There are likely a lot more of these unsavory types among the roster sheets of those lining up to oversee the NOPD consent decree. But before you get too worked up about it, keep in mind that it is highly likely that those holding the mayor’s purse strings have long ago made a decision about the winner in this top-and-pony show.

What these profit-seekers can’t seem to fully grasp is the fact that human beings actually lost their lives here. People died. Others were traumatized by what they saw, experienced, witnessed and are still dealing with.

Members of the Glover family, for example, are still wondering what became of the skull of Henry Glover, their loved one who was murdered by NOPD officers working on the West Bank after Katrina who shot Glover and later burned his remains in a car abandoned on a Mississippi River levee. His skull was taken from the murder scene by someone and has not been found or returned since the high-profile murder trial.

Relatives of 17-year-old James Bris­sette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison are still trying to figure out why cops took the lives of their loved ones on the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans after Katrina and why four others were shot by cops during the ordeal.

Since the convictions of a number of cops in these two cases, most of the cops involved have sought to appeal their convictions, arguing that they were treated unfairly by the criminal justice system. They accept no blame for the part they played in these families’ ordeals.

Watching these seven groups vie for a piece of the economic pie that will come from what can only be described as horrific crimes against humanity feels an awful lot like witnessing someone dancing on another person’s grave. In these dark days of witnessing Black New Orleans being stripped of any semblance of power and being exploited economically, these acts take on an even deeper meaning.

New Orleans is once again the epicenter of white privilege and power. It is a place where wealthy and powerful whites from other parts of the country and the world can come to learn how to keep people of color mentally enslaved and avoid the kind of bloody uprising that led to the birth of the Republic of Haiti.

Here, in Antebellum Disney, nothing is left to chance. Every aspect of Black people’s lives is being planned, monitored and controlled by the powers that be with a major assist from people who look like us.

As this drama continues to unfold, it has become clear that the real reason City Hall and the DOJ don’t support the inclusion of a civilian oversight committee in the NOPD reform process is that such an arrangement would bring too many eyes and ears into this lucrative opportunity. Accountability and transparency are for other government agencies and departments, not City Hall or the DOJ. The last thing they would want is a situation where someone who knows how high the stakes are with this consent decree to see something take place that is questionable or clearly a violation of the United States Constitution.

So here we are again, up against the odds with time running out. We can choose to fight, surrender or run away from the battlefield altogether.

Some of us are brave, so we shall fight and invoke the courage, strength, wisdom, tenacity and resilience of our ancestors as we close ranks on the battlefield. As we fight and struggle and strive to liberate ourselves, we shall be constantly reminded of the Creator’s existence in our lives as the only entity greater than ourselves.

This article originally published in the November 05, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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