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La. AG advocates for ‘stop and frisk’ in N.O.

6th February 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Michael Patrick Welch
Contributing Writer

In his first year, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has taken a particular interest in New Orleans’ murder problem.

A Trump supporter, Landry minted the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation, and took to social media to brag that his new organization had come to the city to #MakeNewOrleansSafeAgain.

However, since then, Landry has not had much luck dampening New Orleans’ years-long high murder rate. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the staff Landry sent in to help made only 11 arrests in New Orleans, compared to over 5,000 by the New Orleans Police Department during that same time.

To aid his cause, Landry wants to use his connections to the Trump administration to tweak the consent decree placed on the NOPD in 2012. According to The Times-Picayune, during a February 1 meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board to discuss his plans for New Orleans, Landry expressed his desire to loosen the rules of the consent decree, particularly those that regulate when and how police officers can stop, frisk and question citizens.

“We talked to officers on the ground,” Landry told The Times-Picayune| of the consent decree, which he reportedly refers to as “hug-a-thug” because he perceives it as favoring criminals. “What we found consistently is that they felt like their hands were tied,” he said.

The attorney general is also reportedly neglecting to make his own investigators (brought in from parishes outside of Orleans) follow the same federally-mandated rules regarding how arrests are handled in Orleans Parish.

It is unusual for a state attorney general to do much more than prosecute criminals in a court of law.

Police Superintendent Michael Harrison told Landry flat out that he could not engage in active law enforcement in New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu too has had harsh words for Landry, accusing him of meddling in New Orleans city business simply to drum up support when he eventually runs for governor (Landry has hinted but not yet confirmed that he will run).

“I’m familiar with the idea of having police or outside law enforcement being brought in to help in New Orleans. But that’s usually been done with the permission of local government, and always with the support of the local police department,” points out Westley Bayas III, a native New Orleanian and community engagement consultant, who filed a petition demanding that Landry not bring stop-and- frisk procedures to his city.

“This is unusual because the AG was not only coming in uninvited but then also going against ordinances that City Council has passed,” said Bayas.

As evidence that Landry isn’t following the consent decree, Bayas points to an Advocate article wherein Landry brags about engaging in a high-speed pursuit of a stolen car from New Orleans East, all the way across the Crescent City Connection to Algiers where the vehicle crashed, and two teenagers were arrested.

“The consent decree uses language against high-speed chases, because you put citizens at risk,” Bayas pointed out. “These are his crime fighting tactics. And now he wants to loosen protections around how he can question citizens…so the police can just create a reasonable doubt, and then pat you down. That’s taking away people’s civil liberties.”

Many others have pointed out the ways in which the national political climate seems to be playing out in New Orleans: Mayor Landrieu and Gov. John Bel Edwards recently announced that, despite the city’s constant budget woes, they would fund a $40 million city initiative that would include dozens of new security cameras to monitor bars and nightclubs (with live feeds to City Hall), plus new police patrols and cars stationed in the French Quarter, to keep Bourbon Street safe and make sure bars are following the city’s new 3 a.m. door-closing rule.

Bayas says he filed his petition as much just to keep people informed.

“It’s Louisiana’s worst-kept secret that Landry is going to run for governor, and that’s why he’s focusing on New Orleans crime,” Bayas hypothesizes. “And we have a right to speak out against people who are using us for their own political gain.”

Requests for comment to both Landry’s office and to the Department of Justice from The Louisiana Weekly were not answered in time for press.

This article originally published in the February 6, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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