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Friday, 1 July 2005
Borderline 7.05: Three Stooges and a Residency Rule
Topic: Police Residency Ruse

Three Stooges and a Residency Rule


Miscues by local clergy and an outspoken sheriff from a neighboring parish help illustrate why New Orleans dare not abandon a residency requirement for police officers


By J.B. Borders


“You know what they say about New Orleans,” a David Duke-type politician tells an Uptown aristocrat in The White League, an unsparing contemporary novel about the secretive racist organization that fought for decades to maintain white supremacy in the Crescent City. “The Catholics built it, the Jews own it, and the niggers enjoy it.”


I thought about that line when a local priest and a rabbi joined forces recently to denounce Superintendent Compass’s proposed sensitivity training program for both the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the citizens they are charged to protect.


The priest, a white missionary working in a poor, crime-ridden black parish, and the rabbi, leader of a wealthy St. Charles Avenue synagogue, had been urged by someone to voice their opposition to the training program because the company that created the service is owned by Dennis Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam.


The rabbi had likened the Nation to the KKK. Scores of cops reportedly objected to the trainers, too. A couple of days later, the superintendent cancelled the contract with Mr. Muhammad.



Talk about cheek. Catholics and Jews – the protectors of pedophiles and the oppressors of Palestine – casting stones at Black Muslims after all the damage followers of the other two branches of the Abrahamic religious tradition have caused in our community for decades.


And then Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee’s stumblebum deputies demonstrated all too graphically why this sensitivity training should be mandatory for law enforcement officials and wanna-be ganstas throughout the metro area. Members of Lee’s force became unapologetic child killers one evening after some 15- and 16-year-old ebony boys got car fever and started joy riding in a stolen pickup truck and would not stop until the Jefferson lawmen chased them down and fired scores of rounds into the vehicle and its driver, blasting the life out of both.


Shortly afterward, a group of Orleans community leaders got together to protest efforts by the New Orleans Police Foundation, the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) and other folks to have the residency rule for New Orleans police officers rescinded by the City Council. In the process of laying out their arguments for keeping the residency rule in place, one of the local Protestant ministers stated that it appeared the JP Deputies had taken target practice on the car-crazed youth – or else they really hated the appearance of that red F150. Harry Lee, TFI (Total Frigging Idiot) that he is, replied in no uncertain terms that the reverend could kiss his wide flat bottom.


Clearly, Lee was not going to be upstaged by a rabbi and a priest. Thank the gods for that.


Like Ronnie Lamarque when he apparently stayed out in the sun too much last summer and, seemingly out of the blue, came up with the bright idea to offer himself as the Savior of the City, Lee, looking a tad too well-tanned for this early in the sweating season, volunteered to be the lightning rod for a frank discussion of the growing intellectual and moral divide between proper city dwellers and those who rest their heads at night in the subdivisions and apartment complexes of St. Bernard, Jefferson and St. Tammany. Presumably, that frank discussion would include the more than 300 members of the NOPD who call “Not-New Orleans” home.


Who knows? Maybe that was precisely what certain members of the white business community had in mind when they leaned on Superintendent Compass to support a suspension of the residency rule. Since this provision was enacted 30+ years ago, most observers say it has become a primary factor in increasing the numbers of black folk on the NOPD and a contributing force in the growing exodus of whites.


Like Harry Lee, I suppose this cabal of leaders just wanted a forum in which they could put all the issues on the table, out in the open, not just inside the Boston Club or in their other exclusive warrens.


That might even have been what some of those same scrappy power brokers had in mind when they button-holed a few key local politicians and suggested to them that campaign contributions would be in short supply this fall if New Orleans City Council members didn’t introduce and vote for the ordinance to legally allow NOPD members live outside the city.


I guess the hypocrisy of breaking the laws they are sworn to protect had been eating into someone’s consciousness.


Stupidity Seals the Deal


After all, recruits are coming into the force at a near-capacity clip, the rescinders acknowledge. The problem is that so many experienced officers with families have to leave town to take jobs in communities where they can afford their mortgages and can send their kids to free schools that provide decent educations. Since providing raises and improving the public schools in New Orleans is a long-term fix, the rescinders say that the one change that can be made immediately is to permit those officers who want to live outside the city limits – and not lie about it – to do so. If we don’t make this change, say these folks, the NOPD’s retention problems will only grow worse and the force won’t be large enough to effectively do its job.


However, since many folks in the city suspect that most of the folk in the outlying parishes who would want to be members of the NOPD are likely to be like Harry Lee, TFIs, having these people policing our communities would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. Lee’s recent antics (and those of the white clergy who opposed the sensitivity training for the police) underscore this point.


In fact, an analysis of the NOPD residency requirement commissioned by the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce concludes that it is not a good idea to eliminate the residency rule either from an economic or a public safety rationale.


The release of this study, prepared by Early Howell & Associates of Detroit, caused a minor firestorm when it was released a few weeks ago. For the past 18 months, the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO), the New Orleans Police Foundation and its stable of researchers and pollsters had been building a case for scrapping the residency rule.


George Bush recently fooled the American people into believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and had to be invaded before they harmed others and that the proposed invasion would be decisive and brief. Likewise, the forces angling to keep the numbers and influence of white officers in the NOPD high sought to sway public opinion to their point of view and to convince the public of the urgency to do something NOW!


You have to hand it to them, the campaign nearly worked, even after PANO’s leader David Benelli melted down in public briefly and flashed glimpses of the stereotypical Southern cop mindset New Orleans needs to put to pasture.


But along came Harry. Sheriff Lee showed out so badly that even C. Ray, Mr. Optimism, was forced to put The Talking Panda in check. The mayor had to tell Dizzy Harry to stop making stupid statements implying that all the criminal activity in the area is caused by “New Orleanians from the housing projects” – another code phrase for black.


Lee’s antics should have sealed the deal. If the City Council dares to roll back the residency requirement in this environment – in the face of all this negative evidence provided by wacky cops and kooky clergy, not to mention the growing number of assaults to the integrity of local black professionals and entrepreneurs – if they dare to try to sell us out on this issue, then we need to petition for early elections and send these enemies packing ASAP, many community leaders are now saying publicly.


The Intrinsic Part of the Package


“The Negroes enjoy it.” That’s what the outliers and old-liners Uptown and on the Lakefront hate about the state of the city. The Negroes have overrun it, have ruined everything, they swear, and are enjoying themselves in the process. Of course, no one is having as much fun as the city’s low-wage paying, high-rate charging, profit-gouging hotel operators, but I digress.


Harry Lee says he will tell us the truth. We should level with him, too. He and his slicker, more crafty cohorts should know that, actually, we are not happy. And that we won’t be satisfied until we own this sucker – the land, the homes, the businesses and the future, not just the partying and the prison garb or even a couple of hundred more police uniforms.


For our part, of course, we have to stop surrendering our wealth for minimum wages, high rates of unemployment, low levels of education and miniscule rates of entrepreneurship. And unless an army of occupation aids our cause for peace and prosperity, it will only add to our problems and make things worse for everyone.


Those who wish to assume the role of the White League in modern-day New Orleans can’t drug, incarcerate, kill, intimidate, relocate or marginalize enough of us, not matter how much they try. This is not Darfur, Rwanda or the American West. We won’t play Indian to their Cowboy. That kind of social engineering will not work in New Orleans, not now.


We are an intrinsic part of the package. We are the City. Progress has to come through us, not around us or in spite of us.


That should be perfectly clear to any Total Frigging Idiot, including those in Jefferson Parish and Washington, DC.

Posted by jamesbborders4 at 3:28 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008 12:41 AM CDT

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