B’s speech at City Hall this afternoon was so all-encompassing, eloquent and charged that I reproduce a large portion of it here (emphasis mine). It is by and large what kept the whole shebang from turning into a hippy lovefest / wash fest, and will help me (and probably others) stay focused on the crux of our crime problem. While so much bad happens in our city, I couldn’t be prouder than in the company of caring and courageous people like B.
… Fear keeps you in your house, but anger drives you out into the streets. But there’s another feeling that doesn’t get talked about as much and that’s shame. I think we all feel a sense of shame — or we should — because this murderous violent society is our society.
Fueling our anger is the perception that our leaders do not share our fear and our sense of shame. And so today I want to say shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. You’ve really let us down. You have failed us. The criminal justice system and the government is broken. And I want to communicate to you the level of outrage that my friends and neighbors are feeling, because we don’t think you get it.
… You need to admit that what you’re doing isn’t working, and plan a return to true community policing. I’ve got an article here from six years ago that praises New Orleans as a model for how to reduce violent crime. Between 1994 and 1999 the murder rate here went down 65%. The credit goes to something called community policing, decentralizing personnel into neighborhoods, with increased responsibilities and accountability for district commanders.
… But we also need to think of creative solutions outside traditional law enforcement strategies. We desperately need to experiment with some kind of decriminalization, to eliminate the black market for drugs. Some will say that’s too radical, but we say there’s nothing too radical when the stakes are this high.
Of course we want action, not rhetoric. Above all we want results. We must have a higher felony conviction rate. The national average is 57%. Our current rate is 7%. We must see a reduction in crime, and especially violent crime, and that is the bottom line. But how will we know whether or not this is being achieved? That is why we must have full, independently audited, disclosure of crime statistics.
We know that law enforcement alone can’t solve these problems. We need long-term solutions too. We must have better schools. We must have an economy beyond tourism. We must pay workers a living wage. We must fight racism and classism. It will take all of us. It will take community involvement. Well, look around. The community IS involved. And we will stay involved. To our political class: You’re on notice. We will be watching.