City, NAACP hold dueling meetings to discuss NOPD, crime concerns

The local branch of the NAACP said it will send a letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu demanding immediate changes to how the New Orleans Police Department handles claims of racial profiling.

That issue has been at the center of the NAACP’s recent concerns after plainclothes officers with the Louisiana State Police were videotaped approaching two black teens, who were apparently waiting for a parent, and threw them to the ground during Mardi Gras and after the Office of Inspector General released a report that found problems with the way the NOPD handles interviews of suspects.

The civil rights group last week requested a public meeting with the mayor to talk about those claims but declined to attend a city-sponsored meeting Monday evening, instead hosting a dueling meeting. Danatus King, president of the local NAACP that met privately with Landrieu last week, said that the mayor wanted to discuss too many issues beyond profiling during the public meeting.

Seated at the front of a Central City church on Monday, Landrieu, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and his top commanders listened to nearly two hours of complaints from residents about everything from the attitudes of New Orleans police officers to blight and property taxes.

Across town in the 6th Ward at the same time, the local branch of the NAACP and others gathered to discuss alleged racial profiling by the New Orleans Police Department.

“I was looking for your leadership when we had the incident in the French Quarter. We didn’t hear anything. Nor did we hear anything from our City Council,” Michael Dummett told Serpas during the Central City meeting.

Curtis Bordenave, another member in the audience at First Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1829 Carondelet St., said that the NAACP does not speak for all of the community and questioned whether their concerns are worthwhile. Stopping and frisking people, particularly African Americans, he said, means that group is “getting the bulk of the resources.”

“If stopping and frisking will save my child’s life, stop them,” Bordenave said. “If picking up kids in our community is going to save them, pick them up.”

Ultimately, though, Landrieu and Serpas said efforts to change the culture of the NOPD and the crime problem in the city will take time to combat. But, they said, progress is being made daily.

Serpas promised that he is working to stop any practice of profiling among his officers.

“My commitment is to turn that out of here,” Serpas said.

Landrieu added that there is “no tolerance for racial profiling in this city. ... The young men need to know that they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but they will be judged by their behavior,” Landrieu said.

The NAACP held its meeting at Christian Unity Baptist Church in the 1700 block of Conti Street.

Only City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell showed up for part of the NAACP’s meeting. King said Tuesday that the fact no other City Hall officials attended shows that Landrieu has no interest in addressing concerns about racial profiling.

“The community wanted that,” King said, not a general discussion about how to handle crime in New Orleans.

King said his organization will not request another meeting to discuss the matter since the mayor did not intend to only discuss racial profiling. Instead, he said, Landrieu will receive a letter with several demands that the NAACP thinks will help end racial profiling.

Among those demands are following recommendations of the Independent Police Monitor in regard to recording why people were stopped and what their race is, explicit orders to stop any alleged profiling and the firing of any officer who is found to racially profile.

This story was altered on March 28, 2013