Mayor, police chief reject National Guard help
27th December 2011 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
Last week, State Rep. Austin Badon may have provided the political cover to Mayor Mitch Landrieu to call in the National Guard to New Orleans to help fight the crime problem.
In the wake of one of the most violent weekends in recent history, and the tragic death of a two-year-old child from a drive-by shooting, Badon called upon Governor Bobby Jindal to activate the National Guard.
“I am formally requesting that you direct the Louisiana National Guard to immediately return to the city of New Orleans,” Badon wrote in a letter to the governor Monday. “The city is besieged by gun-toting criminals who have no regard for innocent citizens or law enforcement.
“I know that as a husband and father, you want a good quality of life for your family. The people of this city only want the same thing. But we don’t have the luxury as you do, of 24 (hour) security,” the letter read. “We need help in the form of uniformed law enforcement to be proactive in this fight against crime.”
The governor agreed to send help, but only if Landrieu asks for the MP units.
It’s not an original idea. Several weeks earlier, Crimefighters president Irv Magri, the founding chairman of the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) and a 30-year veteran cop, called upon Jindal to order the Louisiana National Guard’s Military Police Units to New Orleans to augment the New Orleans Police Department in the wake of the French Quarter murders on Tuesday.
“We need extra police officers in New Orleans NOW to deal with the recent rise in street violence,” Magri explained to The Louisiana Weekly. “We need to augment NOPD so that police officers can be freed from their desks and track the violent offenders before they murder again.”
“This is urgent,” Magri continued. “The governor must act now. Let me be clear: We’re not calling for large deployments of National Guard troops. Just military police. On behalf of our 12,000 members of Crimefighters across Louisiana, I beg Bobby Jindal to simply send military police detachments to New Orleans immediately to help fight this wave of crime during the city’s critical tourist season.”
However, the imagery of predominantly white soliders in military desert fatigues evoked in parts of the African-American community a fear of takeover and the tragic shootings after Hurricane Katrina. Landrieu was unwilling at the time to make such a request — especially amidst repeated demands by Black leaders calling for the resignation of the city’s white NOPD superintendent.
Amid growing criticism from a wide spectrum of Black leaders and media outlets, the mayor had enough racial problems to deal with.
Now that a member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus has made the request and talked about it last week on CNN, it might be easier for the mayor to formally request the National Guard to the Crescent City to help get crime under control.
Badon, in statements to the press, exclaimed, “We’re at war.” Badon, a former state trooper, told the local daily paper that these criminals “don’t care about our repercussions. They commit these acts of violence in broad daylight, in front of a number of people.They fire indiscriminately. They don’t care who’s around, and we gotta take the fight to them.”
“Crime is spiraling out of control,” Badon told CNN last week “Everybody’s afraid. The bad guys are running the city right now. We gotta take this city back.”
Just bolstering police forces is not enough, Magri told The Louisiana Weekly. In the future, Magri and his board have said that the city of New Orleans must construct a 500-bed juvenile detention facility, provide for early intervention for juveniles with five arrests or more, and make mandatory narcotics education in grades K-12.
“Drugs are the real problem,” Magri said. “These criminals don’t care about violence as long as they can make money selling drugs. It is our belief that many of these homicides, woundings, and home invasions are due to fights by drug gangs over territory and control of the profits. The violence all centers around the distribution of illegal narcotics. Only if we free up NOPD officers can we even start to deal with the narcotics problem. The only way to do that [in the short term] is to bring in National Guard Military Police detachments to man the desks, so our officers can be on the streets fighting this crime wave.
“Long-term, starting in kindergarten and going every year through the 12th grade, we must teach kids the dangers of drugs, or this violence will never stop.”
While the governor has said that he will deploy the National Guard upon the mayor’s agreement, no such request has yet come from City Hall as this newspaper went to press.
Despite the efforts of Crimefighters and Badon to utilize the National Guard in the escalating fight to curb violent crime in New Orleans, the mayor and police superintendent have essentially said “thanks but no thanks.”
“We do not plan to ask for troops,” Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni told CNN in an e-mail Monday. “We have a great working relationship with the National Guard, and they are engaged on a daily basis in the crime-fighting work we are doing in New Orleans.”
Chief Serpas blamed New Orleans criminal court judges for the city’s worsening crime problem.
“It is reprehensible that the courts continue to send these men into the streets of New Orleans to be murderers or murdered, and at the same time innocent young children are lost,” Serpas told WWL-TV last week.
At a crime summit Wednesday night in the City Council chamber, Danatus King, president of the New Orleans branch of the NAACP urged concerned members of the community to come out of their comfortable homes, get involved in the lives of the young people who live in the community and “take ownership and control of our neighborhoods.”
Minister Willie Muhammad, a founding member of New Orleans Peacekeepers, pointed out Wednesdays night that many of the disputes that have led to bloodshed originated over “silly, trivial things” that could have been resolved through mediation and conflict resolution.
“I’m not at all surprised that the mayor is resisting efforts by these leaders to find solutions to the city’s growing crime problem,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans-born businessman and former Congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “It’s all about appearances and control. Even if it was a great idea, the mayor would not endorse it because it was not his idea and he needs to look like the all-powerful conquering hero at all times. He is the only one who gets to come up with solutions to the city’s problems, to the point of locking community and civil rights leaders out of public meetings.
“It’s a character flaw and a problem that’s going to come back and bite him in the you-know-what.”
This article was originally published in the December 26, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper