Monday, April 5, 2010

Questions Raised About Landrieu's Search for Police Chief

With Norris Henderson's resignation, four former members of Mayor-elect Landrieu's task force on the search for a new police chief have now left or been forced out due to serious concerns about the process used in the search.

This is an historic moment for the city, and stakes are high. Rarely has there been such widespread and popular support for radical change in the New Orleans Police Department. Rarely have police violence and corruption been so openly displayed for all to see. Criminal justice reform has long been a signature issue of Landrieu's, and he made the search for a new police chief one of his highest priorities. For better or worse, this decision may define his administration before it even begins.

An open letter signed by Norris Henderson of V.O.T.E. NOLA, Gina Womack of Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, and Baty Landis of Silence Is Violence lays out some serious concerns:
Briefly put: The police chief search process is in turmoil. As far as specific concerns about the search, we each have a slightly different focus, as representatives of overlapping but different constituencies. Yet some points of concern we hold in common include:

1. The public survey administered in early March was not the survey drafted by Task Force members during our meetings. We were not given an opportunity to review the survey before it was released, nor even provided with the survey at the same time as the media.

2. After considerable effort soliciting and listening to public input, we have no assurance that this input will play a role in assessing initial applicants.

3. Suggestions made by Task Force members throughout this process have been for the most part either denied or ignored entirely.
Task Force requests that to this day have not received any response include:
*Access to Task Force meeting minutes
*A productive solution to the second public meeting of this Task Force, as promised by Mr. Landrieu
*Availability of the IACP contract for general Task Force review (this, incidentally, could have saved valuable time spent debating points that were apparently decided by IACP contractual stipulations long ago)
*Regular email updates to Task Force members, alerting us to progress and decisions made impacting the search.

Task Force requests that have been denied include:
*Opening Executive Committee proceedings, during which most decisions are made, to additional Task Force members by request or invitation, in order to ensure that the Executive Committee reflects the community as broadly as possible
*Access to the list of attributes forming the initial candidate assessment matrix, to be used by the IACP for the first cut of applicants
*Access to the full applicant pool by a small team of Task Force members
*More frequent meetings
*Additional time for the entire process.

Louisiana Justice Institute holds out hope that this process can be fixed, and that the final result will produce a police chief who can make the radical changes that are badly needed. The former members of the search team end their letter with both hope and a call for the mayor to get involved:
We sincerely hope that, in spite of flaws that have prohibited our continued participation as Task Force members, the remaining body can help the Mayor-Elect to find a police chief who will serve all communities. We urge remaining members to take the time and care required to accomplish this, for the sake of us all.

In particular, we call upon Mayor-Elect Landrieu to reclaim direct management of the search for a new police chief; to re-focus this chaotic and deeply imperiled process; and to live up to the community accountability he has promised in this most important of his decisions as our new Mayor.

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