DA’s Office Actions Reminiscent of Police Shootings
By Jeff Thomas
Nearly 70% of the people who live in New Orleans are African American. Since most crime victims are the same race as their assailants, the vast majority of the crime victims in New Orleans are African American. The vast majority of these victims readily endure the time consuming and emotionally draining rigors of willingly helping to bring their assailant to justice. But a strange and perplexing trend is permeating the local criminal justice system. Crime victims are increasingly unwilling to cooperate with the District Attorney’s office to help prosecute their cases.
Recent revelations that the DA not only used fake subpoenas but has actually put non-compliant victims in jail is not only shocking but reveals the utter failure of the Cannizzaro administration to successfully fulfill all his duties as the people’s elected District Attorney. I intentionally used the term non-compliant to illustrate the deep schism between Cannizzaro’s approach and the sentiment of the public.
Generally whites view government as necessary sometimes obtrusive but always meant to protect and serve. The African American experience with government is very different. Black people must be compliant with the government. If not, the government punishes and preys upon black people. Mass incarceration, traffic cameras, police tactics that escalate encounters, and laws designed to disenfranchise and isolate people of color are current examples of this. The resulting and normal reactions of African Americans is then too often criminalized further by government. So while Cannizzaro can rationalize and claim to be insuring “public safety” when he puts crime victims in jail, there’s a whole other reality out there.
In fact there are 5 sensible reasons why African Americans crime victims do not cooperate with the Orleans Parish DA.
- Feeling unsafe because of fear of some twisted street retribution against people who testify. Crime is often committed by people who live near and sometimes know each other. People rightfully want to protect their loved ones against some deadly force seeking to stop the truth being exposed in a court of law.
- The missionary and condescending attitude of the District Attorney’s office. While 70% of the population might be black, nearly 75% of the DA’s prosecutors are white. Almost none live in New Orleans and according to current and past victims, the DA’s office personnel treat citizens with little respect and talk down to them.
- Rude demanding Assistant DA’s. ADA’s often give little notice about upcoming court proceedings and care little about work schedules and family obligations. Additionally, numerous false calls and wasted trips to court frustrate victims with little apology or compassion from ADAs.
- Racist overtones in communication by ADA’s. Calling the community gang infested and referring to the criminals who are walking the streets harkens to the broad brush racists use when referring to the African American community.
- Moral objection to over incarceration. Many see the costs of over incarceration in their neighborhoods and recognize the zeal and vigor that many ADA’s use to pressure them to testify and create a hostile narrative as unacceptable.
Rather than foster an atmosphere of teamwork and cooperation, these culturally bereft ADAs, under Cannizzaro’s guidance, cajole, ridicule and coerce witnesses without regard to their safety, schedules or temperament. The DA’s office must be conservative and tough, but this DA’s office has created a hostile environment. Like those cops in Baton Rouge who escalated the Alton Sterling episode, the DA’s office in New Orleans disrespects the citizens and locks them up when they are non-compliant. It’s a good thing they are not armed too.