Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Annie Get Your Gun?

I expected I would have had a pretty relaxing weekend. We are celebrating history in this nation, inaugurating Barack Obama as President of the United States of America. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorations are in full swing. And republican and democratic politicians appear to understand (maybe its temporary), that we are one nation, united.

Then I read my January 18th Times-Picayune, and learned the City of New Orleans Office of Inspector General has requested additional funding to arm its staff of twenty with “standard issue” law-and-order hardware, including semiautomatic pistols, miniature rifles, ammunition, laser sighting devices, bulletproof vests, handcuffs and leg irons. IG Robert Cerasoli was hired to identify and investigate inefficiencies in government and “weed out” possible white-collar corruption. So far – after over a year on the job – Mr. Cerasoli has issued one interim report on ‘take-home’ cars. Take-home cars.

There are plenty of arguments I could make about why this is a bone-headed idea. First, these folks don’t have arrest powers. I just loved the statement by Leonard Odom, Cerasoli’s first assistant, who indicated OIG needs handcuffs and leg restraints ‘until the police arrive.’ News flash: if you don’t have a valid warrant signed by a judge, that’s called false arrest and imprisonment.

And then there’s the whole ‘overlapping authority’ thing. Cerasoli took this job understanding he would be working side-by-side with real law enforcement agencies – NOPD, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana State Police, and FBI. “Pish-posh” I guess according to Cerasoli. Those other law enforcement folks are amateurs compared to his newly hired, crack-staff, of mileage hounds! Cerasoli’s OI-GMen are in-the-house, ridding City Hall of paper-wasters, pen thieves, and email spammers.

Yes, I was outraged. Cerasoli, you were hired to investigate corruption in government. That means investigate, get a subpoena if you believe a crime has been committed, forward your findings to the appropriate authorities – NOPD or OPCS or Louisiana State Police or FBI – and move on. Why in the world do you think you need leg-irons and machine guns to investigate white collar crime? This is an unwarranted, unnecessary, and illegal usurping of power at taxpayer expense.

It’s ‘Cerasoli Gone Wild’ showing his soft, unattractive underbelly.

Even if you hate Mayor Nagin – I’ve called him a knucklehead more often than most – if you’re sane, you’ve got to be hoping Ray instructs NOPD Superintendent Riley to refuse any request to deputize and arm OIG employees.

Regardless of what Nagin says, however, the hard truth of the matter is that Cerasoli can spend OIG budgeted funds and arm all 20 of his employees – the secretaries, the runners, the lawyers, the accountants – everybody. But none of us should countenance any civil servants’ attempt to arrest and detain anyone without proper legal authority.

This is New Orleans, not the Wild-Wild West. Annie and Robert – Drop the Gun!


chic geek said...

just a few clarifications: cerasoli did not request ammunition for his "twenty staff" members, and there was no request for submachine guns. stop listening to the spin and/or read the news a bit more carefully. also, i believe that cerasoli knows what an IGs office needs to function as he wrote the HANDBOOK on how to develop and run an IGs office. do a little research and you'll soon find that what cerasoli has requested is standard practice in all IG offices for very good reason, not to mention that the staff he is ordering for is a staff of criminal investigators who may be in harms's way on a regular basis. also, don't forget cerasoli has taken on oversight of the independent monitor developing to oversee the activity of the police department.

mominem said...

Cerasoli's officie now includes the function of the old Office of Municiap Investigation and the Police Monitor. Considering the history of the NOPD, I think his investigators do need weapons for self protection, just like the DA's investigators and the State Fire Marshall's office.