Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Posts Tagged ‘NOPD

And round and round we go…NOPD windfalls…

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"Oh I'm sorry, you thought I was listening?"

Ahem…for reasons of disclosure, let me start out by saying I am a social worker…I am a social worker but I am also not stupid. I’ve worked in some social programs in my day that were, shall we just say, not cost-effective. However, let me also say that those days were a long time ago. Things have changed in my field and now pretty much everything is cost-effective.

That’s what happens when there is no money.

Many Americans, over the past year or so, have been introduced to the term austerity, but in social services austerity has been the order of the day for close to two decades so this is why, when I read in the Lens about Mitch Landrieu’s budget for the city of New Orleans, it makes me want to steal a NOPD squad car and drive it straight through the front doors of City Hall to, you know, creatively air my grievances in a way the mayor might finally pay attention to, because apparently all them listening sessions he did? They didn’t amount to dick as he just wrote a budget doing the opposite of what the people, the citizens of New Orleans, suggested.

We heard folks at the budget meetings say spend less on public safety, but at the moment, we think it (spending more) is the right thing to do,” Landrieu said Monday in an overview presentation of his $495 million proposed 2012 budget to reporters.

Well, listening ain’t hearing, is it Mitch?

So though it will probably fall on deaf ears, let me try to explain a little something anyway, a little something about crime:

If you have a crime problem, and your solution to this crime problem is to cut the funding from every part of the budget that addresses social inequity, be it social services, education or whatever else…you will still have a crime problem. In fact, it will be worse, and if you then take all that money you cut and give it to the most bloated budget of every city in this country, to the police…well, then you will not only still have a crime problem, then you get a lost generation and a prison problem.

Why then a crime, lost generation and a prison problem?

Simple, if your only solution is to lock people up, you’re going to lock a lot of people up which then in effect, is throwing a lot of people away. In addition, social work ain’t the only place to become far too familiar with austerity, these same measures have long since ensured that in prison, there is no such thing as rehabilitation anymore. Instead of a trade or even a college education, all you get now is a criminal education and then people get out of the prison. They come back to your city where, because your mayor keeps giving all the money to the cops, there continues to be little or no support.

And then you still have a crime problem.

But hey, new cops in new uniforms sure do look good on the evening news and it’s something tangible a mayor can point to, puff out his chest and say, “Look at me, I’m doing something about the problem!”

Yeah, okay…but what the hell are you doing but perpetuating it? If I were to buy a shotgun and start driving around New Orleans and shooting homeless people, one might be able to argue that I am doing something about the homeless problem, but that don’t necessarily make it the right thing to do, and besides, then I might wind up in your cyclical non-solution to all things criminal in New Orleans.

Frankly, the simplest solution one can find to a complex problem ain’t necessarily the best way to go about it.

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking it’d be best to measure a city’s success in dealing with a crime issue, not by the number of arrests and convictions, nor by the length of prison sentences. I think a far better measure would be how many you were able to keep from committing the crime in the first place, by presenting them with opportunity to do something else, you know, give as many people as possible a realistic opportunity to display “personal responsibility.”

But yeah, I know…it’s a fuck of a lot harder to take a picture of that, to put crime prevention on the front page of the Times Picayune or to somehow fashion that into a bumper sticker to slap on the back of your car…

You know, before it gets stolen.

So congratulations Mitch, you’re now just like every other damned politician, offering a simple and ineffective solution to a difficult and complex problem…but hey…gotta fill Gusman’s bullshit jails somehow, eh buddy?

Read the article:

Despite community input, Landrieu increases NOPD spending, cuts most other areas

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

October 18, 2011 at 7:29 AM

And now, a word from our sponsors…Anarchist version…

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And now, a word from our sponsors…

Combichrist – Sent to Destroy

So, somebody put garbage bags over the NOPD’s cameras?

A Republican could have done it, said the cameras were too expensive…

A Democrat could have done it, said the cameras were encroaching on privacy rights…

A Libertarian could have done it, said the government is meddling too much in business and private affairs..

A Communist could have done it, said the workers don’t need to be watched…

But, Anarchists did it…and said why, so…

So be it.

Have a nice day.

The NOPD report: white man in Jacksonsmith Palais…

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Text messaging should never be penalized, you know what they say about idle hands...

I had initially planned to begin and end this post with one simple sentence, “Damn, the NOPD sucks, we knew that, but thanks for spelling it all out for us, in detail, just how much they suck…” But before I hit “publish,” I decided I should perhaps, elaborate on this so I did just that:

My former apartment in New Orleans was located at the corner of Royal and St. Ann. Yeah, another newbie moves to the city and sets up shop in the French Quarter, well, please don’t begrudge me my stereotype, I liked living in the Quarter and upon my return, it’s probably where I’ll choose to live again. Why not? I like a lot of noise, I keep odd hours and there’s a feeling there unlike any I’ve ever experienced, living in a museum so to speak…I should also note, I’m a white male, and being of such human classification in this part of New Orleans, who beyond certain political opinions and philosophies, has a clean record and doesn’t make a habit of breaking any serious laws, one might think that walking down Royal Street or up Decatur in the middle of the night, when a passing squad would hit the lights while it crept the streets, it would be of no concern. Wrong. I always, and still do feel that fast adrenaline jolt, and I also immediately look for the escape route.

It might sound overly dramatic, but I can’t help it.

And this response of mine, it brings me to the Department of Justice’s report on the NOPD…you wouldn’t think such reactions would be necessary, that my instincts wouldn’t take over and make such dramatic demands…especially in light of the report which states white males in the city of New Orleans are the only race and gender in the city the NOPD isn’t biased against. You’d think, but nonetheless those darker feelings always came over me quick, each and every time the squads lit it up and dashed the shadows with blue light…

So, if I feel this way about the NOPD, I can only imagine what it must be like for everybody else, the dismissing of complaints made by women, the unwarranted brutality, the racial profiling. The NOPD has a reputation that precedes them, and the many examples in the report show those reputations are hard-earned by years and years of their criminal behavior, leading to a public perception that the officers in New Orleans are best avoided by all.

I can think of many a time my friends and I would be sitting around a certain favorite haunt on St. Phillips and somebody would be discussing the occasional crime perpetrated against him or her, a break-in, a mugging, a stolen bike, etc…and inevitably someone would say the magic words, “Did you report it to the police?”

Such a question was always met with outright laughter. It was kind of an understanding we had that at best the NOPD wouldn’t catch anybody and at worst, whomever called would wind up in trouble when they ran his or her name for unpaid parking tickets or some other such minor offense that comes with the age and the time.

I don’t mean to imply there aren’t decent cops on the NOPD. I’m sure there are good officers on the force who are deserving of respect, much like the police in other places I’ve lived, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco, but the problem is I never really seem to run into those particular officers. In Chicago, it was because I was in the punk rock and anarchist scene and we were targeted. In Seattle, I was part of the Battle in Seattle down with the “just say no to the WTO” crowd, so we were targeted. In San Francisco, I lived in a neighborhood that was all homelessness, drugs and prostitution 24/7, and with my skin color in the middle of the night, I’d get targeted. A friend of mine in the social work world who also lived in the Tenderloin would commonly refer to it as being stopped for “walking while white.” The SFPD would seem almost disappointed I wasn’t on the street to buy crack or pick up a prostitute, that I actually lived there, by choice even.

But nervous around the NOPD? A white guy? In the French Quarter?

Um, yeah..definitely.

Simply put, the other understanding my friends and I shared was the NOPD could and would pretty much arrest anyone they felt like and once the NOPD arrests you, anything can happen. Law and due process are more of a pesky “guideline,” and one that can be ignored if you catch a cop in the wrong mood. The NOPD always had the reputation of being Wild West types who really played without any sort of rule book, and when they are the same ones to enforce any rules that do in fact exist, ultimately there are no rules beyond what they feel like at any given hour.

From the report:

Although the report identifies several instances of improper gun discharges by police — often in cases where officers shot at moving cars against NOPD policy — the department during the past six years has not found that any officer violated policy. Each of the homicide investigations into officer-involved shootings from January 2009 to April 2010 was “deeply flawed,” the report found.

Among the flaws:

  • Investigations were too cursory to determine whether the shooting was justified under the law, which requires that an officer perceive he or somebody else is in imminent danger of death or bodily injury.
  • Officers under investigation were temporarily assigned to the homicide division, a practice that seems to be a conflict on its face.
  • Sometimes, homicide detectives would tell the officer under investigation that his statement was being “compelled,” meaning his statement could never be used against the officer in a criminal prosecution.

“It is difficult to view this practice as anything other than a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult to criminally prosecute any officer in these cases, regardless of the circumstances,” the report contends.

Exactly…if the police who are in charge of policing the police, don’t actually police the police, not really, then nobody is safe from the whim or overzealous behavior of any particular officer…especially, like I previously mentioned, not anyone who isn’t a white male:

“The patterns of policing in New Orleans are biased against several demographic groups, including black residents, people who don’t speak English fluently, gay and transgendered people and women, the report says.”

Back at Rising Tide last August, many of us listened to Ronal Serpas, the new chief of the NOPD speak, and despite most of his comments sounding like canned portions of a politician’s stump speech (understandable as he was speaking to a room full of bloggers, fingers on the keyboard trigger), you also got the sense that maybe this guy, finally was someone who could be taken seriously…

Course, the NOPD was under his stead when the Krewe of Eris paraded down the street, and then closed down the Iron Rail…

Nonetheless, I do remember much of what he said, and I hold out hope that he was sincere and will really try to fix things, not that it will be easy…far from it, especially in a city with the levels of poverty that are found in New Orleans.

Okay, I would probably be remiss before I went on if I didn’t at least point out here something most people already understand, most people it would seem except for Republicans, and not just a few Democrats:

Poverty and crime are linked.

I know, I know, not especially groundbreaking, but you might be surprised by this fact if you spent the majority of your time being force-fed information by most mainstream media news outlets, especially the 24 hour news networks. And this is why Ronal Serpas’s job is going to become increasingly difficult, for not only must he work to fix the climate of the NOPD, he has to do this in an economic climate that is breaking the backs of the middle class and the poor, especially when politicians like Governor Jindal are balancing a budget in such a way that it slaps everyone across the face, repeatedly, unless you happen to be someone of higher means…

Ever here the old saying, “Hungry people don’t stay hungry for long?”

Well, the middle class and poorer neighborhoods in New Orleans are getting hungrier by the year.

Jindal’s new budget cuts back on health care for the poor. It cuts education programs for at-risk youth. It dramatically increases costs for higher education. When the city and state already had a dramatic need for social service programs and assistance for its residents, and the governor responds by cutting back, every year on what is already not enough, well, the end results ain’t gonna be good. 

Not to mention a charter school system that funnels poor kids or kids with behavioral problems, precisely those who need the best supplies and the most attention from teachers, into the schools that don’t have the resources to give due attention to their needs…

Not to mention Obama cutting LIHEAP energy assistance funds, which keep the lights on for thousands of people across the city…

Not to mention a Congress that would seem to like nothing more than steal the lunch money from a kid on his way to school so they could give it to their friends, and their K Street friends’ friends.

Jindal says all these cuts are necessary, one reason being because Jindal won’t raise taxes on business, while on a national level, they become suppoisedly necessary because Obama bought in to extending tax breaks for the wealthy…

The working middle class and the poor?

Well, you’re just going to have to do what you can…

And like any city across the country, as in New Orleans, what do you think some of the “what you can” will entail?

So yes, the NOPD’s gonna have an even bigger job to do. Here’s hoping that Serpas can do what he said, change the police climate because the items in this report speak directly to a climate of in-house crime, especially when officers break the law by covering for other officers, or setting up the system of investigation to be a roadblock to the very same internal investigations meant to assess wrong-doing…Now, to be fair, the NOPD has made a start, essentially decriminalizing minor possession of marijuana to free up officers’ time to pursue more serious crime. A college degree is now required to advance up the NOPD ladder. And along with accepting this investigation by the DOJ, a federal judge will be overseeing the actions of the NOPD.

It’s a small start, but it must continue.

Maybe, along with giving the keys back to the people at the ARK building in the Marigny, the NOPD could start to earn back the citizens’ trust by arresting every person in business or government whose decisions set the stage for more economic suffering in the poorer neighborhoods across the city?

Yeah, probably not…

Changing the inner operations of the NOPD, all the way down to the cops walking the street would certainly be a positive and it is so very necessary for the safety of the city. It will take time, but imagine a day when the NOPD does the job the right way, and not just because a judge is watching. Imagine a time when the average citizen, no matter the skin color or gender has the honest expectation they will be respected by an officer in the NOPD, simply because that’s the norm.

It could happen…why not?

Personally, it’d be nice this time round to not have a flight instinct when I see police lights circling behind me on a dark French Quarter street, let alone anywhere else in the city of New Orleans. This place is just too amazing for that, it deserves much better than its gotten and it has deserved it for years. I don’t care what district you’re in, all people are deserving of protection and respect by the police.

And nobody should need protection from the police, ever.

So good luck Ronal…here’s hoping you mean what you said when you promised to take the DOJ report seriously. Maybe you can even be one of the first officials in the entire country to seriously try to do something about the problems of climate change, even if it’s only the climate inside your own department. 

Lord knows New Orleans needs it… 

Read the DOJ report:

Justice Department Report on the New Orleans Police Department

Have a nice day.

My Two Cents on the Rail…

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Because, it's important

First, a disclaimer…when the Krewe of Eris rolled down the streets of the Marigny and the Quarter, I was over 1000 miles away. Wasn’t there, didn’t see what happened and I won’t pretend to understand the events of that night from any kind of firsthand knowledge. What I do however understand from my own experiences are things like police over-reaction and brutality, bad-apple syndrome, gentrification and yes, anarchism.

I am an anarchist.

It’s the political philosophy I identify with, simply because it makes the most sense to me, and it makes more sense day by day, especially in these days. More specifically, I am an anarcho-syndicalist who believes strongly in the power of unions and community.

By now everyone has read the accounts of what happened at the Krewe of Eris parade and from what I am able to gather, most everybody was doing fine and having a swell time until a few people took it too far (minor property damage) for that kind of a situation (a parade where not everybody shared the understanding of what would happen, including bystanders who got caught up in it), and then in response the NOPD really got stupid, again. Tasers, batons, pepper spray and random arrests, and if some of the first hand accounts are true as they seem, further threats of violence and a denial of medical care for some of the people arrested.

In the midst of these accountings of said events, I’ve read in a few places where writers suggest that for certain members of the Krewe of Eris the parade was about anarchy and anarchy is about chaos, so chaos is what happened.

I can’t speak for the members of the Krewe or their intentions, so I won’t, but what I can speak to is the idea that Anarchism is about no structure, no rules and chaos. This is simply not true, not at all. All forms of Anarchism are based on three main principles: tolerance, equality and mutual aid. The idea of anarchism as a bunch of bomb throwing nihilists shouting “No rules, man!” is a media invention, and frankly, its bullshit. Self proclaimed anarchists who act in this way haven’t really read the philosophy behind the slogans, words and patches. Influential authors such as William Godwin, Peter Kropotkin, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and Ward Churchill have studied and advanced a political philosophy that is about helping others, not telling others what to do and working together through consensus to lift entire communities, not just its wealthier members.

But you know, like in any group…when everybody gets together, there’s always going to be the asshole…such as it would appear occurred during the parade when a few people started busting up some cars. This would seem inappropriate in the moment, not that I decry property damage. I actually support it as a media attention-getting exercise and a rather freeing, liberating experience if done responsibly, and kicking dents in the cars of working class people and artists be it during a parade or in any other setting is not responsible. What is, would be actions like shattering the windows of large multinational banks and investment firms, or of other companies that inflict damage on people and/or the environment in this country or any other country….yes, I can buy into that. What will the breaking of windows change? Not much, I understand that, but every political movement needs its moments of excitement…so, so be it.

But yeah, if fringe members of the Krewe of Eris were damaging the cars of artists and the working class people of the Marigny, well, that was pretty stupid because that damage costs money. Also, the parade was a bad setting to inflict said damage because it gave the police the excuse they desired to shut the whole thing down, which by all accounts would be precisely what they did. As mentioned above, in any group there are going to be assholes and from what I’ve read and at other times experienced, the New Orleans Police Department has got a lion’s share. So, they shouldn’t have done what they did either. There was no excuse for it, property damage or not, one of them getting hit by a brick, or not. If somebody hits a cop with a brick, the cops can arrest the man or woman who did it. It’s not reason to start a police riot and randomly arrest and do violence to whomever they wish, period. The idea that police officers work a high pressure job is no excuse for brutality and breaking the law. If they can’t handle the pressure of their job, quit. Some people simply are not made to be police officers.

In any case, there was an apparent police riot in the Marigny…and then of course the repercussions begin, including the closing of the Ark building, home to the Iron Rail, the bicycle collective and a number of other artists and activists.

But as was so well put by a certain writer in his concerns about gentrification in the Marigny, Bywater and St. Roch neighborhoods, the Ark could very well be only the beginning. Gentrifcation has a tried and true pattern of development, one I’ve personally watched occur in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago and the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. It works rather simply. You got a fucked up, crime ridden neighborhood where the rents are pretty cheap and soon, artists and activists move there because of the cheap rent. New businesses begin to open up to serve the needs of those same artists and activists and over time, the neighborhood gets safer and becomes more desirable to the rest of the city who sits, silently watching until the day they start moving in. Soon enough, the rents rise and the artists and activists get priced out. A few years later, the neighborhood is a hollow imitation of the culture that drew in the money that was ultimately responsible for kicking out the culture.

Round and round we go…

There are some who would make the argument that since Katrina, this would be a way of describing the development of the entire city of New Orleans…maybe, but it certainly is a way to describe the recent goings ons in the Marigny, Bywater and St. Roch neighborhood, and the closing of the Ark building is another step down that road.

So, who gets the blame for all this…the bad apples, the Krewe of Eris, the NOPD?

I don’t know for sure.

Like I mentioned, I wasn’t there, but a persual of the accounts would indicate the NOPD lost their shit in response to some minor provocation, and then the combination of it all led to the first of retaliatory measures called for by neighborhood advocates of gentrification…

In any case, anarchism certainly isn’t to blame.

An oft quoted line from many a conversation is “My freedom ends at the beginning of your nose.”

Meaning: Anarchism is not about mindless violence or the belief in nothing. The philosophy is about tolerance and equality, about helping each other out, for ourselves and against the people who are trying to take it all away. It’s about building, about replacing the government with a system which flows ground up by consensus, rather than orders from the top we have no choice but to follow, or else.  

On several occasions, I’ve been to the Iron Rail and the Ark building and enjoyed my experiences there. I thought it was a tremendous asset to a vibrant and diverse community, and the shutting down of that building troubles me greatly. It’s existence was one of the larger reasons I have been planning my move back, my return to the city of New Orleans, a city I love so much.

A number of writers have also commented that the Iron Rail should have had the proper permits.

I see the point, yes…but at the same time, there’s certainly something contradictory about a bookstore that advocates the end of government applying to the government for permission to be open. I get it. People in the anarchist community feel differently about such ideas. A collective I’d been involved with in Chicago got permits because the Chicago PD would have closed it down the moment they opened their doors. A collective in Berkeley got permits as well, for the same reason. The Iron Rail for whatever reason chose otherwise, and had been open for several years, so there was probably an assumed understanding, rightly or wrongly, that they would be left alone…and it would appear they had been until the NOPD decided they finally had cause to do otherwise.

So, the point of all this rambling?

It would simply be that now is the time to work hard, to help end the gentrification of the city and the neighborhood. Anarchy didn’t cause the melee at the Krewe of Eris parade, assholes did. The NOPD haven’t appeared to have learned too many lessons, and continue a dangerous, heavy-handed approach.

Finally, bring the Iron Rail and everyone active within the Ark building back, into the Marigny, Bywater and St. Roch neighborhood, in whatever form possible.

For a diverse, thriving community it’s both necessary, and important. Whenever any space where the expression of alternative ideas are encouraged gets shut down, the surrounding community gets one step closer to a mind numbing suburbia that benefits nobody, especially not in a city as unique as New Orleans. 

Have a nice day.

Overall, It’s Been a Great Week to Be a New Orleans Assassin!

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Except for new security in the Quarter, not a bad week at all, plus...new condos!

Hello.

I kill people for a living.

Normally, I don’t really go spreading this around as I find it can get in the way of my job, but after the events of this week, I just can’t help myself. Ten years now of having to be all secretive, of having to always respond to questions like, “Hey, what do you do for a living?” with answers like “Oh, a bit of this and that…and, you know, whatever it takes…or, I was a high school teacher before Katrina,” I soon may be able to finally be honest with my fellow New Orleanians, “Me? Oh, I’m an Assassin, and I’m proud!”

It’s been a great week.

Obama’s about to make me legal.

What? I know…I never would have believed it either. I thought when McCain chose Palin, I was truly fucked, but who knew? These Democrats? They appear to have an even stronger fetish for state secrets than the regime they replaced. It’s amazing, truly a surprise and yeah, I know I gotta thank the recession too. Since they can’t run on the economy at mid-terms and that health care thing has been such a clusterfuck…again, the last thing they need is to give rich white elephants any kind of war on terror ammunition so yeah, I get it. I understand. I just don’t care, cause me and my ilk, we’re coming out! Hell, we might even start our own Krewe! Mardi Gras parades! Our own Ball!

Really.

Despite the fact the constitution requires all Americans to receive “due process of law,” Obama is arguing that his assassination program is a state secret.

Why is he doing that?

Well, what happened is the father of this American citizen by the name of Anwar Awlaki, his dad filed a lawsuit against the administration for trying to assassinate his son. Yeah, you can sue for that! Crazy, I didn’t know either. Anyways, the Department of Justice under Obama is demanding dismissal of this lawsuit because they say that when I am out there trying to kill people at the behest of your government, I am a “state secret,” even when I am killing Americans. Why I want to kill you, also a “state secret.” The evidence the government has used as proof of your guilt before sending me out to kill you? You guessed it, “state secret.” And because of all these state secrets, what recourse would an American citizen have?

None.

Obama rules!

The Krewe of “Rue de Screw You!”

Got a bit of ring to it. I’ve always been a fan of some serious alliteration.

I’m thinking of taking out a billboard on Canal Street, course, then again that might not be prudent. It might give the impression to tourists I could conduct my business in the adjoining French Quarter, and whereas that may have been true before…soon, this is about to become very difficult. You see, even with the protection of our government that allows me to kill…you know, you, this doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be caught int the act. It creates quite a headache. Paperwork, time…yeah, all that shit and somebody’s got to let out my dog, “Ray-ray,” so there is still some sense of circumspection required. And in the French Quarter, well, I could deal with the NOPD and their 35 to 40 officers patrolling the Quarter 24-7, but what with this new French Quarter Security District thing, I just don’t know if it’s all going to be worth it. If this is approved on October 2nd, that means there are going to be three new security guards walking around the Quarter’s what, 85 blocks or so? I don’t think I want to deal with that kind of scrutiny. Yes, I understand that Moe, Larry and Curly will not be allowed to unholster their weapon for any reason, that they don’t have the power to arrest anyone for anything but seriously, there is a reason me and my ilk never kill anyone in malls. Too much trouble. I mean what if one of those security guards should have a camera? Do you know how many forms I would have to fill out if I was actually caught on film doing my job, even with the whole state secrets thing?

Assassins don’t like paperwork, it’s one of the most oft-cited reasons we get into this line of work in the first place.

I think I’ll put my billboard out by the airport.

So yeah, you gotta take the good with the bad and if the French Quarter is the only place I can’t kill in this country anymore? Yeah, I can live with that…I suppose, for now.

Oh, and more good news!

Mixed development is on the way to the Iberville.

New digs, right next to the Quarter! If I can’t kill there, at least I can hang out. Assassins like the Quarter…Flanagans, Mojo’s, Fahey’s, Molly’s…all within walking distance. Woo-hoo!

And no, you don’t have to ask. I do feel bad about the whole lack of affordable housing thing in New Orleans, really, I do…but I do work for the company so you gotta support the company and since Obama (again, a Democrat…who knew?) appointed David Gilmore head of HANO, we’re getting all that talk of “mixed development” again and just like when they tore down the Big 4, there have been no promises of 1 to 1, the idea that for every low-income apartment they eliminate, they create a new one somewhere else. With 1 to 1, the thousands of residents that have been priced out of the New Orleans housing market when HANO destroyed their homes, or those at the Iberville who soon might be, they are given a new place to live, guaranteed. 1 to 1. They don’t have to leave New Orleans, or they can finally come back home.

I know, yes, I feel bad about there maybe being more homeless people and all, but I also take responsibility. To assuage any guilt I feel when I move to the Iberville Luxury Towers (don’t worry, you’ll hear about it after the elections) I’m going to do my part to kill as many people as I can all over the New Orleans area, except the French Quarter of course, to try to reduce housing demand, to lower the rents city-wide.

You are welcome!

Okay, gotta go.

Busy, busy, busy…like I said…it’s been a pretty good week overall, got me a lot of work out there to do and I am about to be even more swamped. Seriously. After November 2nd, it’s my understanding that the current administration will soon declare that all those people getting a bit too loud about the Gulf will soon be designated “eco-terrorists.”

And you know what that means.

Yep, Christmas is coming and the family’s going to get the expensive gifts this year!

Oh, and by the way…anyone know a certain Garret Hartley’s address?

Just kidding…kind of.

Have a nice day.

Headlines: Gulf Coast and Beyond

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Prosecutors try to make videotaping the police a crime

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The Danziger Bridge: would video tape have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not.

Before I begin, if you are one of the few people left in this country who believe the police never commit a crime, never abuse their authority or inflict brutality on the citizens they are sworn to protect, you should probably stop reading now. Go on, click on outta here. I respect your opinion, I just think you’re absolutely wrong.

Okay, still with me?

Good.

Yes, prosecutors across the country are trying to charge citizens for the crime of publicly videotaping police officers while doing their job. It would appear that a few too many officers have been embarrassed by the fact that most people now walk around with digital video equipment on their phones.

From an article on Time Magazine’s blog:

Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant, faces up to 16 years in prison. His crime? He videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Then Graber put the video — which could put the officer in a bad light — up on YouTube…(In the video), the trooper can be seen cutting Graber off in an unmarked vehicle, then he approached Graber in plain clothes and yelled while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper.

Oops.

The legal argument the prosecutors are using in court is dependent upon the audio aspect of the videos. They claim this violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. Course there is a question when it comes to the word, “private,” as it seems difficult to believe that police making traffic stops, walking city streets, arresting people on the sidewalk or in the front yards of homes can consider what they are doing is being done in private, but this would be precisely what they appear to claim.

Last I checked, public streets were not private. If they indeed are, then there should be no reason to arrest me for standing on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building naked, drinking a beer. My guess is however, the police in my town might take issue of I engaged in such activities so it would seem this is another example of the police trying to have it both ways, of being above the law, their law.

Now, let it be said that I don’t necessarily have anything against law enforcement. In my job as a social worker, I have regular interactions with the police. I’ve seen officers in my town be the stereotypical power happy prick who got beat up a lot in high school, and I’ve seen officers engage people with a compassion and sensitivity that was impressive, especially considering the circumstances. That being said, it would seem the best way to keep videotaping of officers as a non-issue would be for the police officers to do their job both ethically and legally. If they aren’t doing anything wrong, the only thing a video could do is exonerate them, so pardon my skepticism when it comes to prosecutors trying to criminalize the only way these days to hold officers accountable. Citizen review boards don’t cut it, are often laughable in fact, and civil trials typically go in the officer’s favor when it is a citizen’s word against an officers so yes, videotape, record away everybody.

I’m of the opinion every officer, especially uniformed officers should be videotaped every minute they’re on duty.

Think of the problems we might have avoided had this been the case:

The Jon Burge trials in Chicago. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles. The Danziger Bridge Shootings in New Orleans and these are only the headliners. Thousands of other examples exist both small and large, and more importantly reported and not reported. I personally have seen the arrival of television cameras prevent what looked to be a certain beating by the Chicago Police Department. I have also seen a beating end when cellphones came from several pockets in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.

A crime to videotape police officers?

A few statistics from from Injustice Everywhere:

Between the months of April to September, 2009, 1 out of every 116.4 officers allegedly engaged in misconduct. 207 police chiefs and sheriffs were cited for misconduct. 215 fatalities were reported in connection with alleged misconduct. 2,854 total officers allegedly engaged in misconduct

In the case of Graber — a young husband and father who had never been arrested — the police searched his residence and seized computers. Graber spent 26 hours in jail even before facing the wiretapping charges that could conceivably put him away for 16 years. Even if this case and others like it do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. “We see a fair amount of intimidation — police saying, ‘You can’t do that. It’s illegal,’” says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.

The crime is not citizens videotaping police officers, the crime could very well be whatever it is the police officer might have done to get the cameras rolling. The perspective of film can be everything, it can even be an equalizer.

Read the article…

Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?

Have a nice day

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