Friday, August 12, 2016

Interview: Robert Sterling Hecker, New Orleans Harbor Police Chief and first-time crime novelist

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 8:29 AM

Robert Sterling Hecker.
  • Robert Sterling Hecker.

Some say “it’s never too late to follow your dreams,” but we all know how life has a way of beating down even the most modest ambitions. Goals are circumscribed by family obligations, the day-to-day slog of work, the banal repetition of doing laundry and cleaning the gutters. “I was born to do it” becomes “maybe someday” becomes “I just don’t have time.”

Well, that’s you (and me). Not so much for Robert Sterling Hecker, former Gambit New Orleanian of the Year, 49-year veteran of law enforcement and the author of The Accidental Vigilante, a hard-boiled crime thriller about a detective who stumbles into involvement in a series of murders and abductions when he’s promoted into the unit that handles child abuse crimes. (If that sounds short on intrigue, just wait until the detective uncovers a connection to the Russian mob.) Hecker, who currently serves as chief of the Harbor Police Department, has been waiting to write a novel since high school. He spent the past three years writing his fiction debut.

Hecker spoke with Gambit about being inspired by police work and being a first-time novelist at age 69. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Alton Sterling peace vigil second line in New Orleans July 10

Posted By on Sun, Jul 10, 2016 at 12:27 PM

Alton Sterling
  • Alton Sterling

Alton Sterling Peace Vigil March and Second Line

Sunday, July 10, 2016 5-7pm

Today’s peace march and second line is being spearheaded by Charles ‘Action Jackson’, radio DJ for WWOZ radio and ‘second line ambassador’, to show support for the family of Alton Sterling, who was killed by Baton Rouge police officers. “I’m tired.”, says a weary sounding Jackson. “I am a young Black man, born and raised in 9th ward. Fo so much killing going on, nobody more on radio that has a voice than me. I have to use that voice to keep people calm, to work with the police.”

Jackson, who worked over 36 years in law enforcement, says he can relate to the stresses police officers are under. “They have to make split decisions.” But says the goal of today’s event is “to stop the killing, stop the violence. We come in peace. We want to help everyone stay calm.”

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sidney Torres updates crime app, announces new patrol cars and a 'war room'

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Sidney Torres and one of the new French Quarter Task Force Smart cars. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Sidney Torres and one of the new French Quarter Task Force Smart cars.

Former garbage king and current crime-fighting real estate developer Sidney D. Torres IV announced a new fleet of vehicles and a "2.0" version of the French Quarter Task Force app he developed last year, described as the "Uber of policing" in the neighborhood.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

‘Drunk on violence’: Landrieu gives emotional address on New Orleans’ murder problem

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 10:33 PM

In this file photo, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Chief Michael Harrison address the media at a press conference. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • In this file photo, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Chief Michael Harrison address the media at a press conference.
As New Orleanians and football fans around the country still reel from the shooting death of Saints defensive end Will Smith, Mayor Mitch Landrieu made an emotional plea to residents to help curb a local murder problem that he said has become “baked in” to the city’s culture.

“We are a city, we are a country that is drunk on violence,” Landrieu told a packed audience at a Tulane University auditorium for his address on violence in New Orleans. “And we need to wake up to this fact.”

Landrieu’s address was given two weeks after Smith was gunned in a car near his wife after being involved in a minor car accident, police said.

The incident prompted widespread reaction from city residents, antiviolence groups and fans near and far. During a second line held in Smith’s honor, several residents called the murder “senseless.”

But Landrieu reminded the crowd that it wasn’t occasional celebrity killings like Smith’s that prompted Louisiana to have the number one homicide rate in the nation.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Editorial: It takes a millage

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:10 AM

If the state’s budget mess holds a lesson for local government, it’s that ideologically refusing to raise needed taxes while “cutting government spending” is sometimes an irresponsible course. On April 9, New Orleans voters will go to the polls to decide two propositions: a property tax of 7.5 mills for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the New Orleans Fire Department; and a $120 million bond issue for streets, public facilities and firefighting equipment. The former would help rebuild the NOPD and pay pensions owed to local firefighters. The latter would go mostly toward street repairs, with some for parks, buildings, fire trucks and land acquisition. Early voting has already begun and continues through this Saturday, April 2. We support both propositions.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New rules reduce penalties for pot possession

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Pot smokers might receive only verbal and written warnings instead of fines and jail time if the New Orleans City Council gets behind a proposed ordinance to reduce penalties for simple pot possession.

District A Councilmember Susan Guidry — who helped pass a 2010 ordinance giving officers more discretion in giving first-time offenders a municipal summons instead of arresting them — introduced a new measure today in the Council's Criminal Justice Committee that expands those rules for all simple possession offenses, whether a first strike or fourth. The measure aims to free up the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to focus on violent crime.

Under the new rules, officers can give a verbal warning for smokers with less than 14 grams of marijuana. A second offense carries a written warning, a third violation includes a fine of no more than $50, and a fourth offense carries a fine of no more than $100.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Landrieu unveils New Orleans' $593 million budget for 2016

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 3:36 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's top priority is making New Orleans safe, he said as he unveiled his proposed $592.7 million budget this morning. NOPD is set to be funded at $140 million, an 8 percent ($10.5 million) budget increase from 2015, and $31 million more than it received just six years earlier. "Fighting crime and making the city safe is always our No. 1 priority," Landrieu said.

New Orleans isn't cash-strapped — the city's proposed 2016 budget is $50 million higher than the 2015 budget, and it's nearly $100 million stronger than its 2010 budget. 

But the city also is on the hook for millions of dollars to pay New Orleans firefighters in an ongoing battle over pensions — and then there's funding the new jail, two consent decrees, and committing to a well-funded criminal justice system, including new infrastructure, pay raises and new hires within the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to combat the city's ongoing crime issues.

Landrieu said "the big takeaway" from citywide public budget hearings this summer was "that people of New Orleans want solutions, real plans" to make this city safe and to create jobs, fix streets and offer more affordable housing. Those solutions in Landrieu's 2016 budget are among other "laser focus" priorities that the mayor has targeted, from fighting blight to ambitious capital projects and transportation infrastructure.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Orleans Inspector General and Police Monitor break up

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 4:46 PM

New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. - CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson.
The rift between the New Orleans Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Independent Police Monitor (IPM) — which has played out in contentious courtroom meetings and in statements to the press and the city’s Ethics Review Board (ERB) — has likely come to an end. The offices agreed to separate on Wednesday, Oct. 14 in the interest of providing “a stronger, more effective, and more responsive” OIG and IPM.

Susan Hutson has served as the IPM since 2010 to head the independent investigative body overseeing the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). The offices have frequently butted heads as Hutson has sought more independence despite pushback from Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, who budgets the IPM and sees the office as a branch of his own. Tensions between the offices reached a high following Quatrevaux’s September letter to the ERB calling for Hutson’s firing. In the letter, Quatrevaux alleged Hutson engaged in “ethical misconduct” and “unprofessional conduct” and “failed to relate effectively with law enforcement.”

In their agreement, announced Oct. 14, Hutson will receive an office budget of .16 percent of the city’s general fund budget while the ERB and OIG will share .59 percent of the city’s general fund budget. The OIG also rescinded his request to terminate Hutson, and they agree to “respect one another's mandate and refrain from publicly criticizing or commenting on one another except as it pertains to the respective missions and official duties of each entity regarding NOPD.”

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Landrieu promotes NOPD's "Operation Relentless Pursuit"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 7:15 PM

"Operation Relentless Pursuit" is the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) crime-reduction strategy, which encompasses several familiar efforts under an umbrella that Mayor Mitch Landrieu is calling a "tougher, smarter" plan to fight crime.

In an email promoting the plan today, Landrieu says "we must be a city of peace, a place of safety for all our citizens and visitors" adding that New Orleans "must be united, relentless and fierce in our response" when crime "threatens our neighborhoods."

Landrieu and NOPD chief Michael Harrison spoke with businesses and neighborhood groups about the plan in meetings today. The plan, Landrieu says in the email, will work alongside Landrieu's NOLA for Life initiative, not as its replacement. "We'll protect our neighborhoods by strengthening our communities, not tearing them down," he continues. "Well do it by partnering with community leaders, local businesses, community centers, and religious institutions across our city. We'll do it by partnering with you and your neighborhood because we're all in this together."

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Free self-defense class offered in wake of reported sexual assaults in St. Roch and Upper 9th Ward

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 4:03 PM

NOPD provided surveillance footage of a suspect using a victim's card at an ATM. - NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • NOPD provided surveillance footage of a suspect using a victim's card at an ATM.

The Shaolin-Do martial arts studio on St. Claude Avenue is offering a free self-defense class Sat. Oct. 10, following a series of sexual assaults and armed robberies in the St. Roch and Upper 9th Ward neighborhoods that has been widely discussed on social media.

Shaolin-Do owner and instructor Joseph Meissner says students whose friends were victims of recent assaults requested the class.

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