We Will Need to Go to War in NOLA
By Jeff Thomas
Politicians must make difficult decisions, sometimes funding necessary projects at the expense of other necessary projects. And governments have limited resources to solve problems. Mitch Landrieu has conflated these two notions and the result is outrageous crime in New Orleans. Mitch Landrieu’s poor decisions are as responsible for the robberies and murder as the state police are responsible for the recent death of a child after a high speed chase.
While the state police did not cause the driver to speed away, their dangerous chase through crowded city streets created the scenario for a toddler to be ejected from a car seat and die. Public safety should be the overriding factor in every decision the state police make and every decision the mayor makes. Neither should endanger innocent citizens when other choices result in equally satisfactory results that leave citizens unharmed.
THIS MEANS WAR!
What ever happened to protect and serve? Without evidence of any felony and based solely on a hunch because of tinted windows, the state police chose to chase a car, the most risky, life threatening activity short of firing his/her weapon that an officer can choose. In this case an innocent child is dead. Afterward, state police cited illegal weapons and an expired driver’s license as justification for their actions. Likewise, Landrieu’s no reward but high risk decisions have resulted in similarly dire consequences – increased crime and shootings.
In New Orleans, the primary cause of crime is poverty. Approaching the problem of poverty by focusing on hiring more police is akin to Southern plantation owners attempting to resolve the runaway slave problem by hiring and arming vicious slave catchers to roam the roads between plantations and stop and frisk every African American they encountered. Seemingly, suggesting today to many Southern whites that to solve the crime problem we need to eliminate poverty is like suggesting to slave owners that the best way to solve the runaway slave problem is to eliminate slavery. Ironically, it will take another war to stop crime. A war on poverty.
During his entire tenure, Landrieu has focused on hiring more police to solve the poverty problem in New Orleans. With minimal accomplishable gains, in a testament to his ineptness, Landrieu has completely bungled fortifying the NOPD from day one. From an initial hiring freeze to Ronal Serpas to being unable to attract more officers with hefty pay raises, Landrieu’s NOPD has been a force in disarray. And even though using the police to solve the poverty problem is like putting a Band-Aid on a bleeding cancerous lesion, under Landrieu’s watch the blood loss is palpable.
Our next mayor must approach the poverty problem with the same new tactics that the country is using for the opioid epidemic. In the past, incarceration and mandatory minimums was the preferred course of action. The resulting prison overcrowding and busted budgets have caused even the ultraconservative Louisiana politicians to enact sentencing reform and treatment as the new course of action for our drug problem.
Politicians also get to make some easy decisions. In New Orleans, we clearly need a different perspective. Starting with a shift on the value of black lives, police should not endanger our lives over minor traffic offenses. And the city should attack the root causes of poverty. Overcoming our implicit biases and irrational fears is the first step. Poverty not race is the source of the crime problem. Landrieu’s and the state police’s decisions are based on a prejudgment like plantation owners who could not conceive of treating enslaved people as worthy equals. Seemingly the Civil War was merely a battle in the long fight for equity and fairness in New Orleans and America.
Our next mayor and city council must transform these New Orleans streets. This means war!