Silence Is Violence

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Meeting regarding Wendell Allen case

Date: Tue, Mar. 20, 2012

This evening, Tuesday March 20, SilenceIsViolence will hold a meeting at our office to discuss recent police shootings in New Orleans. The meeting has been moved up to 5PM, and is open to the public.

The killing of Wendell Allen by NOPD Officer Jason Colclough two weeks ago, and the subsequent near-silence on the part of the NOPD regarding this incident, is deeply concerning. Wendell was unarmed when he was shot by Officer Colclough, and it is unclear why thre has not yet been any strong action by the NOPD in a civilian death that was so clearly wrongful. Jason Sipp also died at the hands of New Orleans police, several days before Wendell was shot. In Jason's case, it appears that he was armed and thus the situation is more complicated from the perspective of police culpability. However, this case also raises many troubling questions about NOPD practices and policies under the current administration.

Perhaps most worrisome of all, the City of New Orleans recently denied a public records request for NOPD policies regarding police-involved shootings and use of force. This denial, especially when combined with the general aura of secrecy, intimidation, and distrust within and around the NOPD right now, is naturally making a skittish public still more uncomfortable with our police department and the priorities they are operating under. As of today, it appears that the city is rethinking this response to the public records request and is willing to make at least parts of NOPD use of force policies available for public review.

Whatever Ronal Serpas and the NOPD may have in mind as motivation or strategy, the impact of their current practices is clearly destructive. It is destructive each day, and it is widening the already gaping chasm between a community and its law enforcement officers. The NOPD rank-and-file don't feel much more confidence than the community does, to judge by current attrition rates and by regular calls we receive from officers worried about the department's direction. And the stance of the NOPD runs directly counter to Mayor Landrieu's call for a unified New Orleans, with the same principles, treatment, and quality of life for all citizens.

Meeting: Tuesday, March 20, 5pm

SilenceIsViolence office, 2700 Chartres Street

Open to the Public

This evening we will discuss these broad issues, as well as several specific topics stemming from Wendell Allen's case, including:

1. Why Wendell's family has encountered such difficulty communicating with the NOPD, and a total inability to receive reasonable updates and status reports from the NOPD. This replicates a general lack of responsiveness and engagement with victim families that we have experienced with the NOPD over the past couple of years.

2. The wisdom of the aggressive--as it turned out, dangerously aggressive--approach shown by the NOPD with respect to apparently moderate marajuana sales. We also are wondering what is being done to pursue serial drug purchasers, who are fueling the drug trade just as surely as the sellers, but who often come from a more privileged demographic. How can this double standard be addressed?

3. Should a different standard apply to officers involved in shootings and civilians involved in shootings, from the perspective of potential trauma-induced flaws in subsequent statements? Should different individuals engaged in a single event be interviewed after different intervals of time? How does this affect the integrity of cases, and how does it affect community trust in the police?

Clearly these are just a few of many, many questions and suspicions that have arisen as a result of Wendell Allen's death and the NOPD's manner of dealing with it. Any concerned citizens are invited to join us for tomorrow's meeting, and to bring your own questions and concerns to the table. If you would like specific questions added to the agenda, please forward them to laraunda@silenceisviolence.org. Or call (504) 948-0917 for more information.

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