Silence Is Violence

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Strike Against Crime (PDF)

Briana Allen

Date: Fri, Jun. 01, 2012

Briana Allen, just 5 years old and celebrating kindergarten graduation, was shot and killed at her cousin's birthday party this week.

Surely something more can be done.

Surely children--not teenagers, not young adults, but small, trusting children--do not need to continue dying in New Orleans neighborhoods, at the hands of other New Orleanians, killers who clearly feel as hopeless and confused as the families they are ripping apart.

Surely our leaders and our protectors can do more than this, and can be stronger partners for us.

NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas made this statement last week: "“On one axis is performance, on one axis is attitude[…]All employees ought to be good at both, and we should strive for that. But we are going to shift the New Orleans Police Department from a department that allows performance to be superior to one that allows attitude to be. We’re gonna flip that whole dynamic, and attitude will always be superior to performance.”

The Chief's comments echo an argument SilenceIsViolence has been making for years now: The NOPD must improve its mode of engagement with EVERY citizen in our city, or the department will earn the trust of none of us, and secure safety for noone.

Is Serpas truly ready to move the NOPD past stereotypes as excuses for disrespect, and snap judgments as the basis for differentiated treatment? Can he eliminate racial profiling from the toolbag and investigate, with more precision and more professionalism, the REAL reasons for the violence?

And is the death of children really necessary to demonstrate how callous and destructively judgmental we have been about the death of New Orleanians whom the system has long tried to dismiss, disrespect, even blame for their own murders?

Mitch Landrieu has announced "NOLA For Life"--a plan that focuses on generating respect and value for the living, in order to prevent needless deaths. The Mayor's plan is full of the ideas, experiments, and insights of community groups, and to succeed it must engage with all of us who are working on the ground each day, in our myriad ways, to address the violence. SilenceIsViolence has worked closely with dozens of families who have lost loved ones to violence. We look forward to meeting with Mayor Landrieu to share what we have learned, and to support the success of "NOLA For Life." We hope that every community group will be given the opportunity to meet with, and advise, the Mayor and his team.

Mayor Landrieu, Chief Serpas, and all city leaders: We, the community, want to support you in making us safer. Please help us to help you. Open your hearts to our losses and your ears to our voices, and let us help create a culture of life and respect in New Orleans, a culture that does not leave room for our children to fear for their lives.