I invited former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas to come on "An Open Mind" today to talk about what his life is like now after decades of putting on a uniform each day, but an incredible news story broke that demanded our attention.
New Orleans Police and the Office of Inspector General today say five NOPD SVU detectives failed to properly investigate serious allegations of crimes. The report finds the five police officers botched hundreds of sexual assault and child abuse cases, failed to properly investigate allegations of many adult rapes and child abuse or molestation and lied about other sex crimes investigations.
Those five detectives have been removed from that department but are still on patrol and many are calling for them to be dismissed outright.
Did Chief Serpas recognize these problems on his watch?
"Absolutely. Early in the summer they [The Inspector General] brought attention to me some of the issues that they discovered and we said 'absolutely, get to the bottom of this, go for it.' Here's all the records, turn everything over... and I appreciated that and I'm glad that was done because now you can build and continue to get better."
Everybody wonders how in the world the overwhelming number of errors in processing rape and child abuse cases could be allowed. Were other peers in the department not aware?
"That is the ultimate question. We know in law enforcement that what stops police brutality is other officers saying 'Im not going to be around that' and they report it. We have to move it to the next step. This was about one third of the detectives in that unit. They had a Sergeant that they worked for, and that Sergeant had a Lieutenant they work for. Someplace in there, the whole thing needs to be reviewed and analyzed, and that's exactly what Mr. Quartreveaux is good at."
Is it because those particular crimes are more complex that these lapses occured?
"Those are incredibly complex cases. There's no question about that, but it just means you have to step up your game. If you're a detective in that unit, you don't get to say 'I dont believe what the victim is saying.' I think your job to prove what the victim is saying is true. In this case, we all should look at this and ask what the breakdowns were along the way. Those are going to be numerous and they should be obvious and the right thing to do is to embrace the work that Mr Quatrevaux did on this."
Should these detectives be fired if the investigation proves the IG's report to be true?
"Absolutely. Absolutely... we arrested 86 police officers while I was Chief. That's not something to be proud of, that's something to say to the public 'Yeah if it's there, we're going to act on it.' This is a day we can look to and say there was transparency in the police department, there's going to be accountability."
To listen to the rest of our interview, click the link below.
Protecting historic buildings means protecting us.
The video of the building collapsing in the French Quarter last week is a haunting reminder that we can lose irreplaceable gems in a blink of an eye.
The investigation into why the three story house, made into three apartments, disintegrated before our eyes isn’t over.
But those who treasure these historic structures have their own thoughts about what might have happened… and have concerns that 810 Royal Street may not be the only loss in the near future.
Two hundred year old buildings, not only in the Quarter, but all around historic areas in New Orleans cannot survive on their own. They need our attention and care. They need to be protected from outside forces that may cause damage.
One day a new building will be constructed at 810 Royal Street, but it will not have been part of the history of one of the most remarkable neighborhoods in America.
We need to protect the structures that millions of people from around the world come to admire and enjoy.
We need to protect these buildings that represent who we are as a people and a culture, and we need to do it now.
To help understand how it can be done, I spoke today with Meg Lousteau of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates and Robbie Cangelosi, President of Koch & Wilson Architects and a preservation expert. Click the link below to listen to our conversation.
Grammy Award winning trumpeter, composer, recording artist & cultural ambassador Irvin Mayfield was my guest on "An Open Mind" today talking about an exciting event that will bring two musical greats together. Jazz pianist composter and teacher will join Irvin for a performance of a lifetime -- to benefit Childhood & Family Learning Foundation this Saturday night.
Ellis and Irvin will be performing for the children of New Orleans and honoring outstanding men in broadcast media. Bob Breck, Norman Robinson, Dennis Woltering, Curt Sprang and Jim Henderson will all be accepting awards at the First NBC Bank at 210 Baronne St from 7:00 to 9:30. Tickets and more information is available at their website.
With the business out of the way, I asked Irvin after he had become a professional musician, what was it like to decide to open Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse? Did he know a lot about business?
"An amazing opporunity presented itself to partner with the Royal Sonesta Hotel. I don't think about things from a business standpoint, I think about it from an idea and creativity standpoint. If it's going to be something that's going to benefit our musicians, our artists and our community, it's going to be a good business. The best thing you can have is something that is too valuable to put a price tag on!"
To hear the rest of my conversation with this local legend, click the link below.
Nurses across the United States are making a plea — stop Ebola! Don’t blame nurses. Protect them!
As fear of the deadly virus grows, the men and women on the front lines are taking the biggest risks and paying the biggest price. And now they're telling President Obama our hospitals are not ready for Ebola!
3 of 4 nurses surveyed nationally by National Nurses United say their hospital has not given them sufficient information and education on Ebola. 37% think their hospital has insufficient supplies for containing the virus, including face shields and goggles or fluid-resistant gowns. The study found nurses are alarmed at the inadequate preparation they see at their hospitals.
We now know of two nurses that tested positive for Ebola after providing care to Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, and there are nearly 70 medical workers who were around Mr. Duncan when he was highly contagious. Officials in Dallas say they are monitoring the situtation closely but say that protocols meant to protect the hospital workers were broken in some way, and so it is likely that more of those workers will fall ill with the virus. How did this happen?
"The protocols may be wonderful, but it's still a matter of a whole lot of people caring for someone that is very ill. It's a very difficult situation. You have to have the right protocol and also maintain the complete protection every time," said P.K. Scheerle. She is a registered nurse and CEO & Chairman of the Board of Gifted Nurses. "Is what we're doing all we know to do? Yes. Will it be enough? The research will tell you yes, but yet you have the incidents you have in Dallas. It's a scary time."
Click the link below to listen to our full conversation:
Neighborhoods are leaning that there are discussions going on re-route the train that goes through Old Metairie and instead send it through several New Orleans neighborhoods.
The wealthy Old Metairie neighborhood is weary of waiting on the train at intersections, concerned about what cargo is on the train, and fearful of a catastrophic accident... so the solution is move it to a couple of New Orleans neighborhoods that aren't so wealthy?
Well, there's the latest chapter. The re-routing won't just affect Hollygrove and Mid-City. It will also have an effect in the Old Jefferson and Shrewsbury neighborhoods in Jefferson Parish, too. Plans for the Middle Belt start in Old Jefferson and end at the Greenwood Cemetery at the border of Mid-City. 30-60 additional freight trains per day, 24 hours per day, with 60-70% of the cargo made up of chemicals, flammable and hazardous materials, increased diesel emissions, increased noise & vibrations, threats to health, safety, quality of life, property values & environmental issues.
So it isn't a battle between Jefferson Parish and New Orleans; it's a battle between Jefferson Parish, New Orleans and Jefferson neighborhoods who are joining forces to fight this monumental re-routing of the Middle Belt Railroad.
To discuss this important and impactful issue, I invited community leaders from Hollygrove, Shrewsbury and Old Jefferson to discuss why they are opposed to these changes.
"It's kind of an oddity that John Young has been advocating for Old Metairie while another part of Jefferson Parish has been totally left out of the equation," said Rev. Earl Williams, Chair of the Coalition United against the Middle Belt.
"They forgot about us in Shrewsbury, but we are here to let them know we're not going to lay down, we're going to go out and join together," said Pastor Thomas Nunnery.
Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Click the link below to listen to the entire discussion:
New Orleans D.A. Leon Cannizzaro is looking both back and forward.
During his tenure there have been several high profile cases that have made the news: The D.A.’s office did not prosecute Merritt Landry, the Marigny homeowner who shot an unarmed teen; there was a the release Reginald Adams, who was jailed for 34 years before it was determined that he was wrongfully convicted via prosecutorial misconduct; and of course the distrubing mass shootings at the Mother's Day parade, and on Bourbon Street .
He has already won re-election, even though it doesn’t take place until next month, because a judge ruled his opponent was not eligible to run, clearing the way for the win.
Priding himself on his platform of reform, Cannizzaro’s office looks forward to continuing his efforts to fix the broken criminal justice system. Are the reforms working or is the system still malfunctioning?
"We had some problems when we took over in 2008... people were being released from jail because the D.A.'s office could not make a decision as to whether to accept their charges or not within the timeframe set forth by the law. In some cases, you saw as many as 500 people released and we're not talking about minor cases... these cases involved things such as murder, armed robbery and rape."
In 2008, the D.A.'s office was only accepting about 50% of the cases presented by the NOPD, but now that figure is closer to 85 or 90%. So how did we do it?
To hear the rest of my interview with the District Attorney, click the link below.
A video of former Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his wife Janay and knocking her out, then dragging her from an elevator, has created a firestorm around a vicious form of violence -- domestic abuse. The Rice family is caught in that firestorm. The abuser left without a job; dropped from commercial endorsements and suspended from the NFL indefinitely; the victim pleading for mercy, feeling embarrassed, isolated & victimized again by millions who say they care. And, a child, Rayven Rice, is caught in the eye of the storm.
The NFL is scrambling to deal with it all amid cries for Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign for a lack of leadership; mishandling the situation; and questions about what he knew when. Many say this investigation was botched from the beginning and represents a failure of the justice system and a failure of the sport.
Women, men, anyone sensitive to the issue of domestic violence are enraged, as are fans, coaches and players of the game of football. Stores are offering rebates for Ray Rice jerseys, and two Twitter campaigns, #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft ruled social media over the past couple of days. So much pain. So much fury. So many questions.
How many Janay Rices are there? According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 3 American women will experience some form of domestic abuse. 4.7 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year; women 18-24 are most at risk. And, the heartbreaker--since 1996, the national hotline for domestic violence received 3 million calls, but only 55% of cases of domestic violence are ever reported to police.
In crisis, there is usually a silver lining. This national controversy is personal to so many Americans, and many say this one incident has shined the light on a public crisis. Perhaps this national conversation and conversations like the ones we’re having on WWL radio about domestic abuse will save a life, help a victim, change a heart, turn a head… create action.
Why do women like Janay Rice stay? Why do men like Ray Rice abuse? Is there a prototype of a victim and an abuser?
Many who were abused, fear they’ll become abusers… is that fear legitimate? Is it often realized? If you had to guess… was Ray Rice abused? Did he witness abuse as a child? Did his wife witness abuse, then learn to expect it?
Did the NFL or Roger Goodell put business and the law ahead of doing the right thing? What should their immediate response have been? What actions should they take now? Are calls for the Commissioner to resign realistic or outrageous? Is he a man who made a mistake, or a leader who was mis-lead by his team?
In this video, we see a blatant example of domestic violence, but domestic abuse takes many forms. Not just physical, but emotional and mental. This is a game of control, right?
If you were sitting alone with Janay Rice right now… what would you tell her? What advice would you give her? Would you tell her to leave her husband?
If you were sitting alone with Ray Rice right now… what would you tell him? What advice would you give him?
If you were in charge of the future of their little girl, Rayven Rice… what would your demand be?
If you could take one action to help victims of domestic abuse… either legally, socially, via the NFL… what would you do?
20 years ago the Violence Against Women Act was signed. It gives funding for shelters, gives prosecutors & police more power, and allows order of protection to follow a person from state to state.
But is this enough? To help understand the issue, we sat down with Beth Meeks of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Mary Claire Landry of the New Orleans Family Justice Center, Charmaine Caccioppe and Kim Sport of the United Way about what can be done about domestic violence. You can listen to our conversation by clicking the link below.
Uber, the car service you contact with a smartphone app, has been OK'd to come into the city on a limited basis; Uber Black is the limousine service offered by Uber, and it will be a reality on New Orleans streets in the near future.
Many feel now that Uber Black has been approved 4-3 in the City Council, it's just a matter of time before Uber X gets here, and Uber X drivers will compete directly with local taxi companies. Many feel that Uber X drivers won't have to adhere to the strict standards that taxi companies have to live with.
Why did the City Council vote on, exactly? What will the Uber Black drivers charge, and how will they be regulated? Will Uber do what it has done in other cities and use Uber Black as a sort of foothold for the larger Uber X service?
Of course, competition in the marketplace is good, and there has been criticism that New Orleans taxi cabs sometimes don't come when called and don't serve certain areas of the city. Are those questions that the taxi companies can address?
If Uber doesn't have to follow the rules and regulations that taxis do, why not just drop the rules altogether?
We first asked some of these questions on "An Open Mind" nearly six months ago. To help clear things up we asked City Councilwoman Susan Guidry on the program, as well as Nawlins Cab owner Sheree Kerner. Nawlins Cab already has an app that users can tap to order a taxi but still has serious concerns about the future of the taxi industry in New Orleans should Uber swoop in and do what it's done in other places like Dallas. We also invited the local Uber General Manager and also Ryan Berni of the Mayor's Office to help us understand but heard back from neither.
Click the link below to listen to the entire interview.
There have been a number of cases of late where citizens have defended themselves gainst those they say were going to hurt them, or were stealing from them.
We remember the story of Merrit Landry, who fired on and injured a young boy who had jumped over his fence in the Faubourg Marigny.
Another couple sitting on their own back porch are herded into their own home by a man with a gun... the husband gets his own gun and shoots the intruder.
A local minister sees two men stealing copper from the A/C units of his church. He gets his gun, shoots at them as they flee, hitting on in the head. The minister was later arrested. What would you have done?
What are the laws exactly? When can you shoot? When does the law define the use of force?
The answers to these questions aren't always easy to come by, even in law enforcement. We need to educate ourselves about this.
Today, we talked to criminal defense Attorney Robert Jenkins, a former state public defender; former assistant US attorney and WWL-TV Legal Analyst Donald "Chick" Foret; and Dave Newman, a certified pistol instructor registered with the Louisiana State Police and owner of Concealed Carry NOLA.
If you've ever had a question about how to use a gun to protect yourself and stay on the right side of the law, you cannot miss this episode of "An Open Mind." Click the link below to listen.
Michael Harrison became an NOPD officer 23 years ago, and today he is interim Chief.
Why did he want to become a cop? What was it about the world of law enforcement that called him? And now equally importantly… why does he want to be Chief? I ask that not to be facetious - this is a tough job in very tough times.
A community is crying out for more; more officers in neighborhoods, more caring and committed officers and more money for cops who will stay.
Officers are crying out as they struggle to make enough money through the new office handling details… with pervasive morale issues and with their own frustrations from not enough police on the force.
In a city with so much going right, the number of people shooting others continues to haunt us. Children are killed and maimed, women are slaughtered, and our sense of security in every neighborhood is shattered.
Michael Harrison has been around a long time. He has worked from the ground up. Yet, he is a new set of eyes when it comes to leading us out of the complexity of this situation.
How can he make us feel safer? How can he make the men and women in blue feel better? And, what does he think can be done to stop the madness on the streets?