New Orleans Independent Police Monitor (IPM) Susan Hutson and Inspector General (IG) today presented to the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee the results of two highly critical reports on the New Orleans Police Department's stop and frisk programs. The IG report, which examined 10,000 field interview cards generated over two months in 2011, concluded that because of sloppy and incomplete data-gathering on officer field interview cards, the office was unable to determine whether racial profiling was taking place during so-called "Terry stops," where officers briefly stop, detain and possibly search subjects. Under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1968 ruling in Terry v. Ohio, officers must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to conduct a stop and frisk.
"This is something that is very much in the public eye. It's been in the public eye since I've been here," Hutson said.
NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas told the City Council today that citywide data shows that over the last year, only about 49 percent of field interview cards completed were for black male subjects.
("I don't think that African American men comprise 49 percent of the population of the city of New Orleans," said Louisiana ACLU director Marjorie Esman, responding during the public comment portion of the meeting. Serpas later responded that in 90 percent of violent crimes in New Orleans in 2011, victims and witnesses identified a black male suspect. More than 70 percent of victims, he added, were black. Further note: Public comment on the profiling issue became very contentious. At one point Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson told speaker Randolph Scott to "hush" after he criticized her. The audience booed in response. Clarkson [for some reason] decided to escalate, calling on a police officer to "quiet down" the crowd, which in fact had the opposite effect. Finally, District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry calmly said she wanted to "move on," and the meeting moved on.)
"About 70 percent of field interviews are done because the officer saw the circumstance and took action," Serpas said, and others occurred where citizen complaints were coming in.
Still, said Deputy Police Monitor Simone Levine in a phone interview with Gambit, a whistleblower informed auditors that, during the period in question, some police districts were submitting information for encounters that didn’t even involve suspicion criminal activity, such as interviews of traffic accident victims. There was no way to distinguish between those and cards generated from police stops.
“We can’t evaluate the data. We can’t say who exactly was stopped,” Levine said.
(More after the jump)
The Contemporary Arts Center’s Brilliant Disguise show is nothing if not surprising. Organized by New Orleans Museum of Art curator Miranda Lash using work from NOMA’s collection, it is not only an unexpected example of institutional collaboration, it also is surprising for its unlikely visual relationships. Any show that mingles antique tribal art with the work of trendy global hot shots should logically become an incoherent mess — but only if one relies on verbal logic. This show illustrates how images can reveal their own visual logic when astutely deployed without regard for categories. Most genuinely meaningful art arises from a deeply nonverbal place that knows no boundaries in time and space, allowing escape from life’s more ordinary limits. The same goes for Carnival costuming and masking that, at its best, allows us to turn life into an artful extension of the imagination.
Hurricane Katrina was inevitably called “a catastrophe of biblical proportions.” The multitalented New Orleans writer John Biguenet has presented the catastrophe in three plays, all of which premiered at Southern Rep. Mold, the final installment, is currently on the boards at the Contemporary Art Center, and it is local original theater at its best.
Mold takes place one year after the storm and the levee failures. Trey (Trey Burvant) and Marie (Kerry Cahill) Guidry arrive at the flood-wrecked home of Trey’s parents — admirably evoked by set designer Geoffrey Hall. On the door is a red “X” with “2 dead” sprayed on it. That refers to Trey’s parents, who expired in the sweltering attic. Their deaths haunt Trey, who feels responsible.
The kitchen at the Deep South-meets-Creole diner High Hat Café prides itself on a handmade approach. So does the bar. Restaurant manager Ryan Iriarte is always mixing up new cocktail ingredients, cocktail recipes and even unique soft drinks.
Last fall, he and bartender Lauren Holton started a periodic series of cocktail events called High Hat After Hours, which basically turns the restaurant into a temporary craft cocktail bar for a night after the kitchen closes.
The next edition is scheduled for April 6, running from 10 p.m. to about 1 a.m.
The New Orleans Film Society and the Contemporary Arts Center screen Don't Stop Believing: Everyman's Journey at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. tonight at the CAC. The film chronicles Arnel Pineda, the Filipino singer who was found via YouTube to front the band. Admission $7, free for film society and CAC members.
Carlos Sanchez, the managing editor of NOLA Media Group's new Baton Rouge bureau, has resigned after less than six months on the job, multiple sources within the company have told Gambit.
A memo co-signed by editor Jim Amoss and the director of state news and sports, James O'Byrne, went out to NOLA Media Group staffers in the last two hours, saying Sanchez was resigning for family reasons and returning to Texas, where he wrote about politics for the Austin American-Statesman and served as editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald for several years before being let go in a Trib-Herald companywide layoff in 2011.
Sanchez was hired by NOLA Media Group last fall to helm its expanded bureau in Baton Rouge. In January, he created a stir within the company when — on the eve of President Barack Obama's second inauguration — the Baton Rouge bureau posted an online poll asking "Should we wish President Obama well in his second term?". That poll, which was the subject of dismay and some derision in the New Orleans office, where it was seen as "clickbait," has been removed from the NOLA.com site:
NOLA Media Group's Baton Rouge bureau also came under fire earlier this month in a lengthy, critical story by Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review — a story that triggered anger within the NOLA Media Group and, according to some current and past employees, a search for internal sources who may have spoken to Chittum. In tracing the changes at The Times-Picayune from a daily to a thrice-weekly publication with a digital focus, Chittum wrote:
The Baton Rouge bureau, under the purview of James O’Byrne, the former NOLA.com editor, is widely viewed internally as an embarrassment. The second sentence of one November story’s lede would be hard to imagine in a high-school paper: “Fortunately for the citizens of the Red Stick, local law enforcement continue to team up with state legislators and federal agencies to ensure stricter drug enforcement laws and regulations make it onto the books.”
Today's memo from O'Byrne and Amoss said that NOLA Media Group would be undertaking a national search to replace Sanchez. A call to NOLA Media Group's Baton Rouge office was not immediately returned.
(UPDATE: Sanchez has posted a farewell letter, saying, in part, "In the end, it came down to leaving one of the boldest experiments in American journalism today in favor of my family, still living in Texas. In short, there was no choice." He also praises the head of Baton Rouge's Downtown Development District.)
There should new options soon on the New Orleans lakefront to have a meal, get some drinks and even toast the sunset with a few raw oysters as two new waterfront restaurants take shape practically next door to each other.
One is Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar, which has been in the works since 2011 along the canal connecting West End marinas to Lake Pontchartrain. Blue Crab manager Kent Burgess says it should open in about a month.
Less had been known about the second structure rising just down the canal, but chef and manager David DeFelice reports that this will be Brisbi’s Lakefront Restaurant & Bar. It’s also on track to open in about a month.
“It will be a casual restaurant with higher points of food and service,” says DeFelice. “It’s not going to be the same old New Orleans fried and boiled seafood. We’ll have five types of fish in the kitchen everyday and take a more contemporary approach.”
After weeks of demands from Danatus King, president of the NAACP's New Orleans chapter, Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a meeting to address community concerns about the New Orleans Police Department — specifically racial profiling — last night at First Emmanuel Baptist Church, a mere 2.6 mile drive from Christian Unity Baptist Church, where King simultaneously held a meeting on the same topic.
Like District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, I was able to attend both meetings, but because I'm unable to bend space, I could only attend the beginning of Landrieu's meeting and the end of the NAACP's meeting. The Times-Picayune's Andrew Vanacore and Richard Rainey can therefore provide a fairer, fuller account of both. Same goes for WWL-TV and WVUE.
I do have some pictures, though.
(More after the jump)
The 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival daily "cubes" are now available at the festival's website. Here are some debacles: Fleetwood Mac or Phoenix or Frank Ocean? Hall & Oates or The Black Keys?
Headliners at this year's Fest include Fleetwood Mac, Willie Nelson, Frank Ocean, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews Band, Patti Smith, Hall & Oates, Andrew Bird, George Benson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jimmy Cliff, Jill Scott, Maroon 5, Phoenix, Band of Horses and The Black Keys.
The two-week festival runs April 26-28 and May 2-5 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course.
Those who find the seemingly intractable, decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict hard to fathom would do well to see The Gatekeepers, Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh’s insightful and Oscar-nominated documentary. Moreh obtained unprecedented access to the six surviving former heads of the Shin Bet, the Israeli Secret Service charged with defending the state against terrorism. Over the course of 97 minutes, each speaks with remarkable candor about the many shades of grey involved with fighting terrorists who use the same term to describe the Israelis, as well as the internal political realities that somehow always seem to work against the possibility of meaningful peace in the region.
The film’s videogame-style CGI re-enactments of Israeli military operations add a needlessly artificial element. But Moreh must have been concerned about the cumulative effect of basing his entire film on footage of elderly men sitting and sharing personal interpretations of historic events. He need not have worried — his interview subjects’ gradual and hard-won acceptance of the need for a two-state solution to the conflict is powerful enough enough to carry the film. And it resonates far beyond the Middle East for those ready to accept hard lessons from decades of frustration and disappointment.
The Gatekeepers screens through Thursday, March 28 at The Theatres at Canal Place. More info here.
Chosen few 1/29 !!
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