Biased “Investigations”, “Mischaracterized” Evidence, Sketchy Statements: We Already Know . . .
News from Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson’s office that the investigation into the killing of unarmed, college student Wendell Allen was tainted by biased and deliberate efforts intended to clear the police of wrongdoing does not come to any surprise to us. To be sure, it was more confirmation than new information.
We say confirmation because it’s not lost on us that we are still talking about the same NOPD whose officers—after killing and injuring unarmed, innocent men and women on the Danzinger Bridge—made up, from thin air, witness statements and manufactured evidence (remember the infamous ham sandwich—a firearm retrieved by one of the former officers from his home and “discovered” under the bridge a few weeks later in an attempt to frame victims).
That sort of flagrant, deliberate and cold police misconduct is deep seeded and must be rooted out with a bulldozer. It is bold and calculated and must not be easily or quickly forgotten or dismissed as an aberration. Having a gun on hand at one’s home available to even consider planting as evidence is not an anomaly—it is methodically deceitful and corrupt. A good officer does not do that by happenstance or because of circumstance. And good officers do not cosign such treachery.
We remind ourselves of this because we have to keep it in the forefront of our collective conscience so that it festers … rots … offends our senses and sickens our very spirits enough to make certain it or nothing even one-tenth as repulsive ever happens again. Sadly and obviously, we are not there yet. Ten years after Danzinger, ten years after Henry Glover, we still can’t trust the police. We still can’t seem to find justice. Ten years after Katrina, some police officers are willing to resort to duplicitous behavior in order to dodge justice for their actions.
We have said it before and we will say it again without fear or trepidation, given the history of the NOPD, we’re not so big on taking officers’ words or the results of internal investigations as gospel truth over here. Without the presence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, we lean toward the “official” version of the story as one not automatically synonymous with what really happened. And we are exhausted by a culture in which protecting and upholding illegal police action is second nature.
That is why we appreciate Police Monitor Hutson’s work; and we can’t help but be troubled by this revelation and what it means, not only for the case of Wendell Allen, but so many others. If NOPD officers’ accounts and statements were the evidence used to come to the decisions that no charges should be brought against officers in the police-involved shooting deaths of Justin Sipp or Adolph Grimes III, then we’re putting our money on justice in those cases not having been served.
Make no mistake, we still find hard to fathom that Sipp, on his way to work in the wee morning hours and pulled over by police for an inoperable license plate light, opened fire on cops because of an active warrant for some traffic or city violation. That story sounds better, however, than the alternative—at least for the police. We still have not forgotten that just six months after Adolph Grimes III was fatally wounded, the NOPD officers that shot him were cleared in his Jan. 1, 2009, killing. Grimes, a 22-year-old New Orleanian still residing in Houston after being displaced by Katrina, was visiting family for the holiday when he was shot 14 times by police after an encounter that begin while he was sitting in his car outside of his grandmother’s house on Gov. Nicholls Street in the Sixth Ward. Within three minutes of the first police car’s arrival, Grimes was dead. Police say Grimes had a gun and began shooting at them first. Grimes’ family and their attorney dispute claims that the young father fired at police. Nine of the 14 bullets that struck Grimes hit him in the back. Again, we know the police account sounds better. But we really don’t have any reason to trust that, now do we? And with some of the same officers involved in those incidents on the streets, we have no reason to anticipate change anytime soon.
Recently, we watched the video of the raid and subsequent shooting death of Allen released by the police monitor’s office. We viewed it, listened to its sounds with difficulty and unease. And we have to agree with Allen’s grandmother. The family was headed to court for Colclough’s request for a reduction in sentence. But that video gives them pause. Had it been available before, Allen’s grandmother says she believes that Colclough, who now has the audacity to seek a sentence lighter than the four years he received for killing Wendell Allen, should have been charged with nothing short of murder.
We agree; and what’s more, we ask what of the cases where no video exists or the evidence of improprieties are far easier to hide. Shouldn’t “nothing short of” always be the goal? Isn’t that exactly what the people of our city, the families of Wendell Allen, Justice Sipp, Adolph Grimes, Henry Glover, James Brissette, Ronald Madison and countless others deserve—justice and nothing short of justice.
Two Local Publishers Honored By NNPA
Congratulations to Renette Dejoie Hall and Beverly McKenna, publishers of The Louisiana Weekly and The New Orleans Tribune, respectively, for being featured in Getting the Word Out: African American Women Publishers. The book highlights 53 current Black, female publishers across nation who are members of the National Newspapers Publishers Association.
Dejoie Hall, a native New Orleanian and third-generation publisher of The Louisiana Weekly, which was founded by her grandfather, is also the first Black woman to hold office in The Louisiana Press Association.
McKenna, founded McKenna Publishing Company in 1985, along with Dr. Dwight McKenna, James Borders and the late Kermit Thomas, to publish The New Orleans Tribune.
In addition to her work with McKenna Publishing and The Tribune, she has been an active part of the local business, social and cultural communities in New Orleans. She also serves as a member of the NNPA’s Foundation Board.
Living Wage Law a Good Move for the City
The New Orleans City Council recently adopted an ordinance requiring city contractors and recipients of grants to pay employees who are involved in city contracted work a minimum of $10.55 an hour and to hour provide a minimum of seven paid sick days. The rule will apply to contractors with $25,000 or more in annual city contracts as well as recipients of city grants of $100,000 or more over any 12-month period. The “Living Wage Ordinance” ensures that taxpayer dollars extended by the city to private contractors will enable full-time workers to support a family at a level that meets basic needs and avoids economic hardship.
District D Councilman Jared Brossett, who was the author of the new law, says it “will go a long way towards improving the standard of living for many New Orleanians. We have too many people who work hard but struggle to put food on the table for their families.”
We agree and commend the city for taking this important step to ensuring that more families have the resources they need.
But there must be more if this is to make a real difference in the lives of locals. The city of New Orleans must do all that it can to ensure that city contracts are going to local companies that employ local people. And in a city that is still majority African-American that must mean more disadvantaged business enterprises. It must also mean that majority owned firms who land contracts with the city ought to have employee demographics that mirror New Orleans.
A Little More Baffled Every Time
Baffled. Mystified. Confounded. Flummoxed. Bewildered. That’s exactly how we feel every time some detail or revelation surrounding the prosecution of former mayor C. Ray Nagin is revealed. According to a New Orleans Advocate report, businessman Scott Sewell is upset that the government has allowed businessman Frank Fradella—a key witness in the government’s case against Nagin—to make off with more than $5 million that he believes Fradella, his former business partner, cheated him out of. In part, the government’s response through U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson, is that Sewell has no standing to claim money from shady business deals because he (Sewell that is) knew they were shady business deals to begin with. In other words, Sewell should be glad he was not indicted.
Now, we could quite frankly care less about the wrangling between two good ol’ boys—wealthy, White businessmen the both of them—over who zoomed who.
What this part of the saga reminds us, however, is just how far the government was willing to go to “get” Nagin. Fradella is described as an “invaluable” witness for his cooperation in the prosecution of Nagin. We guess it is true—he was a linchpin in the case against Nagin. What he offered up in the government’s pursuit of Ray Nagin was his own admission that he gave the countertop business owned by Nagin’s son $50,000 in granite and another $150,000 in cash to Nagin. And for his testimony, he was sentenced to one year and one day in jail. And it seems the government has not forced him to relinquish any assets in restitution.
So maybe Sewell doesn’t deserve the money. Maybe he does. Thing is if Fradella is just a criminally dishonest businessman turned government witness, we’re hard-pressed to understand why he gets to keep money he owes Sewell or other investors for that matter. Let’s face it, Fradella has admitted to using bribery of public officials to advance his business. And let’s not forget that he was defrauding his investors, which is why he and Sewell bumped heads to begin with. But he gets to keep ill-gotten gains while Ray Nagin goes to jail for 10 years over granite, trips, lawn service, cell phone bill payments, cash bribes—small dollar amounts that pale in comparison to Fradella’s assets, which will be waiting for him, when he gets out of jail . . . in the very near future.
Man, those folk that wanted Ray Nagin—they really wanted him bad. And Frank Fradella was a “lynch” pin, indeed.
We Swore We Were Done
Really the entire point of last month’s editorial was that we did not want to devote anymore time or space to the confederate monuments debate. But, we have to say that it was rather ridiculous for U.S. Sen. David Vitter to send a letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, wherein he chided him for initiating discussions regarding removing confederate symbols and names from public spaces in the city.
“Focus on murders, not monuments,” Vitter wrote to the Mayor.
Look we were pretty clear in our position that the city of New Orleans has about a hundred other things it should be worried about as opposed to Lee Circle or Jefferson Davis Parkway.
But please spare us your sarcastic sentiment, Sen. Vitter. You see, our position stems from an authentic desire to see real quality of life issues improve for the people of New Orleans and our well-thought out opinion that the monuments debate distracts and employs energy, efforts and resources that could be put to better us. And we suspect that you, well, you just wanted to pick a fight and score some points with confederate sympathizers as you make a run for governor or work to hold on to your senate seat if your gubernatorial efforts fail.
Nonetheless, you are right, Sen. Vitter. The focus should be murders not monuments. With that in mind, how about you heed your own advice by doing more from your high and important position as the state’s ranking U. S. senator to address and positively impact the underlying dismal socio-economic conditions that contribute to the crime and violence that beset New Orleans!
Well, Sen. Vitter?
Oh, wait, according to you this crime and violence issue in New Orleans is not really a federal problem. Never mind that improved socio-economic conditions through jobs, training, economic development, and quality educational opportunities would all go a long way in tackling the root causes of crime. And never mind that there is actually plenty, you could do about that.
So let’s get this straight, Sen. Vitter:
First, there’s nothing you, as our voice in federal government, can do about the crime on the streets in New Orleans because it’s not really a federal issue.
Plus, we cannot point to one thing you have ever done to positively impact the lives of New Orleanians—ever—in the 10 years you have represented our interests in the Beltway. We are your constituents, you know.
Then on top of all of that, you don’t really have anything contemplative to add to the monuments debate–just your offhand quip vis-à-vis murders and monuments, which we are sure plays well with the Duck Dynasty and return to splendor crowds.
Making mental note: Add David Vitter to that list of problems . . . things that ought to be taken down with greater urgency than Robert E. Lee’s statue.