Public talks sought with mayor
NEW ORLEANS — The leader of the local NAACP said he is frustrated with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s response to an invitation to discuss in public alleged racial profiling by the New Orleans Police Department.
The NAACP on Tuesday called for a meeting to discuss the issue after recent reports raised questions about the practice by officers.
Danatus King, president of the NAACP’s New Orleans chapter, said Wednesday that he and about a dozen members of his organization met with Landrieu on Tuesday to discuss the matter and also requested a public meeting on the topic.
Instead, King said, Landrieu did not make any comments about the issue and asked the group to participate in the city’s Nola for Life program, which aims to reduce murders. The mayor also agreed to set up a public meeting sometime in the next two weeks.
Ryan Berni, Landrieu’s spokesman, said the meeting will let the mayor discuss the city’s efforts to change the NOPD and how residents can help reduce murder.
Those topics are not what his organization and residents want to discuss, King said.
“This is indicative of tricks being played,” King said. “It’s very upsetting.
On Wednesday evening, Berni declined to respond further to King’s comments.
In a recent report, the New Orleans Office of Inspector General said it is impossible to know if police racially profile people they stop to question since there are flaws in how the department keeps its records.
The OIG reviewed “field interview cards” from January 2011 to June 2011 and found that police did not properly fill out those cards for each person they stopped.
The cards are meant to be used only during “suspicious person” stops and are designed to collect information on people officers interview. Police are supposed to have reasonable suspicion for stopping someone, rather than only detaining someone based on his or her race or gender.
Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a reply to the OIG report that there have been some failures with the process officers use when stopping people but said that resolutions have been discussed within the department.
He noted, however, that the computer system used to fill out field interview cards was installed before he was named head of the NOPD and that making any changes might not be possible given the department’s budget.
Until the meeting is held, the NAACP will continue to hold a seven-day vigil on the steps of City Hall to highlight members’ concerns. The vigils happen between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
“This (racial profiling) is a concern of folks uptown, downtown, gay, straight, young, old. It’s the entire community,” King said. “It’s a public safety concern.”