Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Police ... abuse of responsibilities

In Baton Rouge, La., the city police department is investigating complaints by the New Mexico State Police and Michigan State Police of "witnessing local officers commit acts they considered 'misconduct.'"

Simultaneously, Mermentau Police Chief Jeremy Joseph Leblanc and one of his officers have been "charged with looting in connection with thefts from stores in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ... They allegedly stole a box of Ray-Ban sunglasses and two suede sport coats from Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as 23 T-shirts from the Jean Lafitte Gift Shop on Bourbon Street. They were acting in the capacity of police officers in New Orleans on Sept. 3."

If that weren't enough, the beating of a citizen at the hands of New Orleans police hit the national news. In that incident, a retired elementary teacher "was repeatedly punched in the head by police in an incident caught on videotape." Additional post-Katrina investigations include accussations that nearly 250 officers left their posts and 12 either looted or condoned looting, car theft and homicide.

However, corruption is nothing new to the New Orleans police force. "Former Police Superintendent Richard Pennington, now Atlanta's chief, is widely credited with cleaning up the department, purging it of scores of bad cops during the 1990s, a decade when police were arrested for crimes ranging from shoplifting and bribery to bank robbery, drug dealing and rape. Perhaps the worst came in the mid-1990s, when two cops were convicted of murder in separate cases. Both are on death row."

Pennington lost the 2002 New Orleans mayoral race to Ray Nagin, the former Cox Cable executive and current inept leader of a city fighting for survival in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was during Pennington's watch as superintendent that the police department "was perceived in a more positive way in the community, the number of officers increased and the public felt safer."

"A mere three years later, New Orleans is on life support. Of course, Katrina was a major reason, but problems in the NOPD are a contributing cause as well. Pennington lost the Mayor’s race to glib Cox Cable executive Ray Nagin who spoke of bold ideas on how to revitalize New Orleans. Nagin claimed he would sell the airport to raise money, revitalize public education and build a new city hall. He had many other ideas, and while he accomplished none of them in office, they sounded good to the people and Nagin easily defeated the good cop, but bad politician, Richard Pennington. Pennington had a hard time conveying to voters the success he created at the NOPD. He was not a good public speaker, just a good public servant. Eventually, he moved to Atlanta and is now their Police Chief, dealing with another volatile urban situation. Back in New Orleans, one of Ray Nagin’s first actions was to appoint his lifelong friend Eddie Compass as Police Chief. Compass was a good beat cop, but no leader. He was inarticulate and obviously in over his head as Police Chief. The murder rate started to rise and by 2004 it stood at 10 times the national average, as 265 people were killed on the streets of New Orleans."

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