New Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas met at police headquarters with editors from a dozen New Orleans media outlets this afternoon to push an improved transparency message.
Serpas said he read the New Orleans newspapers every day for the nine years he was away from the city in Washington and Tennessee. He saw coverage that portrayed the department as "balkanized," he said. "And I want to be different."
Serpas has already made two obvious changes to the department to improve transparency: Opening up weekly Comstat meetings to the public, and giving his commanders permission to speak to the press.
"It didn't make sense to me that the department would shut Comstat off from their own department," said Serpas, of the first of those changes. "That's when people start walking around saying they must be up to some kind of Voodoo in there."
The chief also asked for the media's help in asking citizens to actually call the police when a crime is happening in their neighborhood, and said focusing on livability crimes as well as maintaining a focus on reducing violent crime would be a good way to rebuild the public's confidence in the bureau.
Representatives from Hispanic print and radio outlets said many in the Latino community are reluctant to report crimes because they're afraid that their immigration status will be questioned.
"I'm not interested in immigration status," said Serpas. "I spent a lot of time at odds with congressional leadership on this issue in Nashville. How people find themselves in this nation is beyond my control."
God's speed, Rodrigue
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