Body Cameras Stay Home on Cops’ Second Jobs!

•June 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Cameras are mandatory for their first jobs, of course. An Associated Press poll of the 20 biggest cities in America found that only five have rules requiring them to wear them during moonlighting work. New Orleans is not one of the five. Police Departments say there are too many logistical hurdles and costs to contend with. I don’t think those reasons are very good ones. It’s important in today’s world that police are accountable every minute they are on the street wearing a sidearm and or their uniform.

New York City, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Columbus, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia have no department requirement requiring cops on second jobs to wear their cameras. Nevertheless, virtually all police departments have regulations stating that off duty cops still represent the department and the city and are subject to police regulations when they are moonlighting. Many times, off duty cops are the nearest to some calamity and are the first responders. When trouble erupts, it doesn’t matter if the officer is on or off duty.

In Louisiana, a off duty cop who didn’t have his camera on was sentenced to 40 years in jail for manslaughter for the death of a 6 year old following a car chase. The case hinged on an on-duty officer’s body camera which depicted the boy’s father had his hands up and sticking out of his window when the former officer and the moonlighting officer together fired 18 shots. After the barrage ceased, the footage shows the officer’s realization that the child was in the passenger seat.

Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis are among the cities requiring off duty cops to wear their cameras. Cincinnati police Captain Doug Wiesman says it’s a mistake not to have them. Your officers are wearing their uniforms, who cares who is paying them? That is an excellent point.

170 departments have received U.S. Justice Department grants for body cameras. It is hard to find any mention of equipping moonlighting officers, according to Michael White, who works with those cities on technical assistance and training. It’s an evolving issue, but I think it’s something departments will need to start addressing, said White, who is also a criminology professor at Arizona State University. It should be part of the uniform just like anything else.

Prison Reform Package Passes Louisiana House and Senate!

•June 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Orleans Parish Prison

Hell has indeed frozen over, because all 10 bills in the huge overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system passed both legislative chambers and the governor has signaled his willingness to sign the bill into law. Why now? I guess the legislature is finally tired of Louisiana’s well deserved but unwanted designation as the most highly incarcerated state in America.

While celebrating with jubilant member of the legislature, the Governor said in a statement, today’s progress on the criminal justice reform package coming out of both chambers demonstrates that we can find bipartisanship and collaboration among our elected leaders in Louisiana on tough initiatives that prioritize the best interests of our people. I am proud of the Legislatives’ work on these historic bills and look forward to signing them into law when they make it to my desk.

What is really going on here? It seems our esteemed governor Edwards is just following through on one of his main campaign promises, to reduce Louisiana’s world’s highest incarceration rate. For too long, Louisiana has had the ignominious distinction of having highest incarceration rate in the nation, Edwards said, We will soon begin to reverse that trend very soon. 

According to the Pew Institute, the implementation of all ten bills will reduce Louisiana’s prison population by 10% over the next 10 years. The savings created by the state no longer housing so many inmates is projected to be approximately $262 million, of which 70%  has been earmarked for programs that support victims and rehabilitate offenders.

 

D.A.’s Controversial Tactics Under Attack!

•May 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Has District Attorney Cannizzaro lost it? Fake subpoenas? The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Foundation has sued the Orleans Parish District Attorney over his surprising practice of issuing fake subpoenas to unwilling witnesses in an attempt to get them to court. The problem is, the subpoenas were never authorized by a judge.

That makes them worthless, but not to our hapless and clueless District Attorney. The documents appear to be legitimate, as appear to be real documents. They say, SUBPEOENA: A FINE AND IMPRISONMENT MAY BE IMPOSED FOR FAILURE TO OBEY THIS NOTICE. Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman has stated that no witnesses who received the phony subpoena has been jailed. Bowman added that this practice predates Cannizzaro’s term.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro on a Sad Day

The North Shore and Jefferson Parish District Attorneys have done the exact same thing, though there were slight variations in the actual documents.  Seems like all these departments have lost some marbles along the way. This practice is very quasi legal. We live in a society of laws, and when one branch of the legal system starts making their own rules, the entire system flounders.

The MacArthur Justice Center’s suit accuses the Orleans Parish DA’s office of illegally ignoring an earlier public records request by Attorney Emily Washington for copies of all Article 66 subpoenas. Why did Washington want these documents?  He was concerned about the possible abuse of authority by the DA for possibly issuing subpoenas even when no criminal prosecution was intended or subsequently occurred.

In 2015, this request was denied by the Orleans prosecutors office. No database exists for these subpoenas, Washington was told. Later he was told his request was overly burdensome, then too costly, and finally that the records sought were with the Orleans Criminal District Clerk of Court.

All these denials fly in the face of what First Assistant District Attorney Grayson Martin said last month. He said he had no formal method of record keeping for these subpoenas. The District Attorney’s staff misled us about where to find subpoenas, at best, said Katie Schwartzmann, co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s office in New Orleans., speaking about the lawsuit.

Katie Schwartzmann

Next, Washington put in record requests seeking the subpoenas to each Criminal District judge and the Criminal District Court Clerk’s office, but was denied these requests. The judges replied collectively through a judicial administrator, stating the subpoena records weren’t in their custody. The clerk’s office denied the request, stating it couldn’t identify them without a review of roughly 15,000 case files per year.

The lawsuit is claiming that the subpoenas can’t be found or were not preserved, as legally required, and wants to DA’s office to face penalties for violating Louisiana’s open records law. The MacArthur’s lawsuit also examines the state law that allows the district attorneys or the attorney general the power to issue Article 66 subpoenas. They claim it is unconstitutional.

District attorneys or the attorney general are required by article 66 to establish reasonable grounds for a judge to order a person to appear for questioning by prosecutors. If a judge agrees to issue the subpoena, the clerk’s office issues it. The suit questions if reasonable grounds is too low a bar to issue a subpoena, stating a higher burden of probable cause should be required.

What Does Austerity Bring to a Big Louisiana Jail?

•April 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve got a friend from a well to do family from uptown New Orleans who had a problem breaking into unlocked cars and stealing the contents to support a drug habit. After years of stealing like this, he got caught and convicted and sent to Angola State Penitentiary on a 9 year sentence. He’s 3 years into the sentence and was recently moved to a private for profit (bad idea!) called Allen Correctional Center.

Allen Correctional Center

After receiving a $13,000 Pell grant for his first two semesters earning his associate’s degree, he got shipped in the middle of his second semester. That’s right, college in prison costs big bucks, and the government is happy to issue you a Pell grant to pay for it.  Allen has an associate’s program also, but it takes a few weeks to get back in.

Allen’s conditions are more chaotic than Angola’s and the laid back atmosphere that Angola had is non existent in Allen. There are few guards at Allen, they are undertrained, and the inmates are much younger serving far shorter sentences of a couple of years. Allen is a world of difference compared to Angola. Almost all the younger inmates care about is getting high, and it’s a veritable drug store inside Allen.

The library, gym, votech school and big yard are all shut down because these privately run jails get paid only 24 dollars a day to house state inmates and there’s not enough money to run the place as a real prison, so most of the time inmates are locked down in their dorms. Lock and feed is what this is called and it’s all the inmates do.

My friend lucked out in that right after getting there, he got a job in the prison commissary filling other inmates’ store orders, stocking shelves, and unloading trucks. Only six inmates work there out of an inmate population of over 1,300. It’s considered one of the better jobs and he’s very glad to have it. It keeps  busy Monday through Friday from 7am to 3 or 4 pm. Worst thing is Allen’s all the way damn near to Lake Charles which is over 3 hours from New Orleans. So visitation is going to slow down to be at most once or twice a year.

 

 

Stolen Guns Causing Mayhem Throughout Town!

•March 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A record 600+ guns were reported stolen in New Orleans last year, an astounding number. It turns out robbers have zeroed in on cash, guns and jewelry as the most valuable, portable items they can steal. Thieves with hours in a house still only take these three items.  Criminals acquire guns in several ways, and stealing guns is a popular from cars remains a popular method.

Why people leave cash and guns in their cars I will never understand. I don’t own any guns and I’ve never left more than newspaper change in the car. I have a friend of a friend who is serving 10 years in Angola who fueled a heroin addiction by robbing open cars uptown of guns and cash. He’s a real clean looking fellow who the cops never suspected for years. He did a lot of horse by selling guns and collecting a lot of greenbacks. Half of all reported stolen guns were stolen from vehicles.

Car Waiting to be Burglarized

Federal authorities report that 60% of all gun thefts are never reported. I suppose people are embarrassed by their stupidity. Stories abound about people leaving their cars unlocked all day, with thousands of dollars in cash and an arsenal in the car.  Folks think leaving their keys on the dashboard is smart, as they are easy to find. That holds for any crooks walking by also.

What else do people leave in their cars? You’d be surprised- Car burglars take anything of value from cash, GPSs, electronics, digital cameras, I-pods, MP3 Players, expensive sunglasses, laptops, weapons and whatever else of value that is left insecure.

New Orleans City Council OKs Additional $2.6 million to Run Prison!

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The City Council is so enamored with the terrific turnaround that has occurred at the Orleans Parish Prison that they raised the Jail budget by $2.6 million. Why was this done? To reward the great work of the independent administrator of the jail, Gary D. Maynard. Maynard as hired to ‘assist’ Gusman in running his jail by studying the situation and issuing a report. His report has dazzled the powers that be (Mayor, City Council) to the point of giddiness.  It’s a bright day for our city when a consultant does what the elected official just cannot, grab control of our out of control Orleans Parish penal system.

Every year, the City Council and Gusman’s team duke it out before the Council over the jail’s budget. Now, the City Council, the Mayor, and the Sheriff’s Office are in agreement for the first time in a million years, or so it seems.  Maynard has even brought agreement to the formerly highly contentious issue of another, smaller new jail building dedicated to less than a hundred mentally ill inmates.

The new jail building would cost $89 million and would be build within 24 months. It will house mentally unstable or physically unfit inmates.  Another facet of the plan calls for the reopening of the jail’s Temporary Detention Center.

Opening both facilities will ensure that all those prisoners that Gusman that he sent to North Louisiana and kept there can return to the local jail. That saves a million and a half dollars. The spending plan dictates raises for Sheriff’s office employees of approximately $3,000/year for most employees. Maynard’s plan also increases staffing by 77 new civilians and 43 new uniformed jailers.

 

Hundreds More Prisoners to be Relocated to Plaquemines!

•February 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Under a plan hatched by Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s court ordered stand-in, Gary D. Maynard, months ago, half the inmates in the new jail will move temporarily move to the empty new Plaquemines jail. The irony here is just amazing. Our new jail will be mostly empty!  Instead of working the new training into the staffs’ schedules, for example an extra two or three classes a week for a total of 6 to 12 hours, seems easier and cheaper than incurring the large cost of transporting hundreds of inmates around for a few months.

Plaquemines Parish New Jail 2

Plaquemines Parish New Jail 2

A 6-week training program is supposed to work miracles in fixing a jail staff that is underpaid and demoralized by years of constant acting out by both the inmates and the staff. Meanwhile, the hundreds of inmates awaiting trial in far flung jails around the state cannot get access to their families, support network or attorneys . Defense attorneys, judges and families are frustrated by this negative turn of events.

In late 2015, Gusman began housing hundreds of prisoners in Northern Louisiana due to a deputy shortage that has endangered both the inmates and deputies.

The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office agreed to take 200 New Orleans inmates at the new Pointe a la Hache 871 bed jail, which has stood empty since opening in 2015. Plaquemines has been unable to field enough trained deputies to man the new jail, but Plaquemines Sheriff Gerald Turlich, Jr. said he’s hired a dozen new correctional officers with the hopes of expanding the jail’s population.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Turlich said the city of New Orleans will pony up 28 dollars a day, just about 4 bucks more than the State Department of Public Safety and Corrections pays to sheriffs’ housing state prisoners.

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is mandated by state law to pay for the housing of New Orleans prisoners, completely supports Maynard’s plan to temporarily relocate inmates out of New Orleans so the staff can be properly trained.