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New Orleans People’s Town Hall demands Civilian Police Accountability Council, confronts police superintendent

By staff

New Orleans residents at town hall meeting on police accountability at Treme Rec Center. | Fight Back! News/staff

New Orleans, LA – On Tuesday, April 9, around 100 community members filed into the gymnasium of the Treme Recreational Center for a People’s Town Hall on Policing. The town hall meeting, hosted by New Orleans for Community Oversight of the Police (NOCOP), interviewed New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick. The superintendent is the local equivalent of a chief of police. Community members spent the town hall voicing their anger with police crimes, abuses of power, civil rights violations, and lack of transparency.

NOCOP and other organizations demanded that Kirkpatrick endorse a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), which she refused. The audience was notably dissatisfied with Kirkpatrick’s responses, and she left the town hall in a huff.

Superintendent Kirkpatrick has no background in policing in the city or state, and she took this position in New Orleans after losing previous position as a police chief in Oakland, California. Mayor Latoya Cantrell appointed her without inviting input from the city council or community. During her confirmation process, the city council ignored demands to call a public meeting with the mayor, and unexpectedly pushed back her confirmation hearing to avoid having a large audience. She was sworn into office on November 1, and this town hall marked her first conversation with the public.

Oversight “dysfunctional”

The event began with an interview of the superintendent by Jasmine Groves. Jasmine is the daughter of Kim Groves, who was assassinated by former NOPD officer Len Davis after Kim had reported police brutality. Jasmine Groves is a NOCOP member and has been a dedicated advocate against police violence for many years. During the interview, Groves posed questions to the superintendent regarding the consent decree, civilian oversight, Louisiana State Police collaboration, families of police violence victims, and the violation of First Amendment rights.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Kirkpatrick repeated in response to questions.

Kirkpatrick took a stance on the consent decree that particularly concerned the audience. The decree exists as a result of a Department of Justice investigation into the unconstitutionality of the city’s policing. The superintendent emphasized her plan to exit the consent decree, and many in the audience could be heard voicing that NOPD is still not in compliance.

Kirkpatrick also remarked that civilian oversight boards are “dysfunctional,” citing that a civilian review board had removed her in the past. She went on to brag about costing Oakland $1.5 million in order to remove her and suggested the existing Police Community Advisory Boards (PCAB) as the best setting for the public to give input to police instead of CPAC. The lackluster answers upset both Groves and the crowd.

“No trust without accountability”

Eventually, Jasmine Groves confronted the superintendent, stating, “As a victim of a mother killed by NOPD, it kind of aggravates me to see the picture painted cutely. The community is the only people that suffer. It's been 30 years since my mama was killed.”

Groves continued, “I would have loved for my mama to be here, or I wouldn't be here today. I had no choice in that. The consent decree is the only thing that gives the community safety, and, from a guideline – you can’t tell me that’s compliance. When we still have Ronald Greene, Davari Robertson, and all these people who still are families and victims of police corruption. So, the game, the wish, and the lies, that will not bridge the gap of trust. Cause my trust was torn when this twelve-year-old answered the phone and heard my mama’s shot.”

Groves speaking from experience about the impacts of police violence and the absence of police accountability riled the crowd to applause. “No trust without accountability!'' shouted one audience member.

During public comment time, the community voiced other frustrations. The crowd asked their questions, at times being very confrontational.

“Take the power back!”

WC Johnson with Community United for Change stated, “We still have officers on the job who’ve violated people’s rights that have never had to answer for or apologize for what they’ve done. PCABs are not working, so that can’t be our plan for community engagement alone. PCAB is a police community advisory board. In each police district there's a PCAB, but the things they’re supposed to do, the way they're supposed to work, the way they’re supposed to operate as described in the consent decree is not the way it's operating.”

Johnson continued, “The PCAB didn't come out of the community, it didn't come from the citizens.”

“The people of New Orleans are facing undemocratic and unconstitutional policing and increasing attacks on our democratic rights. So, if it's unconstitutional, and it’s undemocratic, then what kind of system do the people have?” Nat Turner of the People’s Political Party asked the superintendent.

“Based on the question as I am reading it, it says, ‘If the treatment of Black people in the city is unconstitutional and undemocratic, what kind of system do we have?’ —a failed one. A failed system,” responded Kirkpatrick, acknowledging the failures of police to protect citizens, but offering only existing avenues for public input to police as city residents demand community oversight. The superintendent responded to an ask from the crowd on whether or not she would attend another town hall. She declined.

“Take the power back! CPAC! CPAC!”, the crowd chanted as Kirkpatrick exited. To reflect on the town hall and take steps to continue building the movement for community control of the police, New Orleans for Community Oversight of the Police will have an open meeting on the April 18 at 2626.Saint Phillip Street.

The endorsing organizations for the town hall were New Orleans Stop Helping Israel’s Ports (NOSHIP), Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Eyes on Surveillance, Renters Rights Assembly, Communities United for Change, New Orleans United Front Against Crime, and NOCOP.

#NewOrleansLA #InJusticeSystem #PoliceBrutality #CPAC #CommunityControl #NOSHIP #NOCOP #FRSO #DSA #NOUFA #Feature