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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Press Release of the Week: NOPD changes policy on releasing victim records

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 4:20 PM

The New Orleans Police Department will no longer be releasing arrest histories on every homicide victim in its press releases. Instead, NOPD will issue a monthly report including statistics on victim and perpetrator arrests, as well as the percent arrested for gun crimes, felonies and misdemeanors. (Not included: Percent convicted vs. acquitted or length of time since the arrests occurred.) None of that information, however, will be connected to names of particular victims.

In a press release from NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas below, you can see a report, under the new policy, for January 2012. It's pretty much precisely what City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell suggested at a recent meeting of the Criminal Justice Committee.

The change comes shortly after a whole bunch of things happened: (1) community outrage after the release of "Good Samaritan" Mike Ainsworth's record, (2) a report from the Lens noting apparent discrepancies between the Ainsworth press release and previous ones, (3) The Times-Picayune's Sunday opinion section and (4) some unflattering exposure in national news outlets. Not to mention (5) a petition asking the department to change the policy, which got 182 "signatures" in the past two days, and (6) proposed state legislation banning the practice.

(Press release after the jump)

NOPD Makes Changes to Year Old Policy of Sharing Public Criminal Record Information

(February 1, 2012) “I believe it is necessary to share with the community the obvious and direct link between criminal behavior and the horrible acts of murder in our city. I have always said, however, that there are very good arguments to share and not share this public information.

After consulting privately with local clergy leaders over the last weeks, starting today, our press releases will no longer include the individual public arrest record of a homicide victim. Instead, and to continue to keep the community informed, we will once per month give an overview of these arrest records in total and not by an individual’s name.

The NOPD will continue to share the public criminal record of persons arrested for crimes in our community. The people of New Orleans are entitled to this information, and know what challenges we face. An informed public is critical in the fight to save our sons.”

-Superintendent Ronal W. Serpas

# # #
Example of new monthly report which will be cumulative through the year. The following is real data, ending January 30, 2012:

2012 Murders 24

2011 Murders 21

2012 Victims’ Data

Felony Arrest History 71%

Misdemeanor Arrest History 17%

Prior Arrest Illegal Use or Possession of a Firearm 41.6%

Unemployed 87.5%

Parole/Probation in Lifetime 29.1%

2012 Perpetrators’ Data

Felony Arrest History 60%

Misdemeanor Arrest History 30%

Prior Arrest Illegal Use or Possession of a Firearm 50%

Unemployment 90%

Parole/Probation in Lifetime 10%

Use of a Vehicle to commit the crime 50%

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