My heart went out to RowVaugh Wells as she watched the evidence unfold last week against the seven rogue Memphis police officers and three first-responders who are alleged to be responsible for the untimely death of her son Tyre Nichols. A 29-year-old Black man, Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after a fatal encounter with the MPD’s Scorpion police unit. Nichols made the mistake of trying to run away from the officers during a traffic stop. Running from the police is never a wise move and usually leads to an ugly chase. It should not lead to a brutal death.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, the city’s first female chief, was on the right track when she decided to more aggressively address the numerous crime problems she inherited in 2021. Unfortunately more than a few of the officers selected for Scorpion either lacked the right temperament for the job or were not properly trained and supervised. The absence of restraint by the unit’s members eventually became a recipe for tragedy.
New Orleans has had more than a few Tyre Nichols moments. Remember the Danziger Bridge case and other atrocities after Hurricane Katrina? Could Nichols have been a N’Awlins kid who perfected his skateboard moves under the I-610 in Gentilly and was thought to be driving erratically because he hit a supersized pothole on his way home from Popeyes? While the possibilities exist, the probability is much less.
“Anything can happen, but the likelihood of Nichols facing the same fate in New Orleans would be greatly diminished because of the federal consent decree,” said Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
As much as people like Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans Police Department complain about the consent decree and what it has cost the city financially, it’s actually been a worthwhile investment. It’s New Orleans’ defense against becoming another Memphis or Minneapolis. New Orleans is already 10 years into the police reform process. Because of the consent decree, the NOPD has provided the important training designed to prevent future abuse-of-force incidents. “New Orleans is a much better place now because of that training,” Goyeneche said.
In addition to family and friends, others who attended Tyre Nicholas funeral service included relatives of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and Botham Jean who all died at the hands of police officers. After George Floyd’s death, angry citizens marched with signs demanding changes at the NOPD such as prohibiting officers from placing a knee on a suspect’s neck. “What the protesters didn’t realize is that many of the issues had already been addressed and corrected as part of the changes made under the consent decree,” Goyeneche continued.
New Orleanians who were angry over Nichols’ needless, brutal death gathered earlier this week in Duncan Plaza once again demanding change. Among those present was Anthony Jackson Jr., president of New Orleans’ Police Community Advisory Board. The CEO of City One Security & Investigative Agency, Jackson understands that the NOPD and citizens must work hand in hand to build a safer New Orleans.
“Federal consent decrees are essential in the current climate of policing due to the lack of accountability and transparency with police departments nationwide,” Jackson said. “Here in New Orleans, we must continue the consent decree to maintain integrity and character for every officer working locally. The consent decree process will expose corrupt officers who violate the constitutional rights of citizens and their oath as peace officers.
“Unfortunately, over the years the community has lost many civilians in the hands of corrupt police officers who have abused their power with protection of qualified immunity. These protests will continue until the citizens of this country feel that legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is passed to protect the lives of civilians as a whole whether the civilian is guilty or innocent. This legislation will send the message to civilians that the police are needed to protect and serve the community instead of policing the community with fear and intimidation,” Jackson concluded.
EARLY VOTING BEGINS SATURDAY IN HOUSE DISTRICT 93 RACE; SIX CANDIDATES COMPETING
In what appear to be one of the fastest races in recent times, six candidates – Morgan Clevenger, Matt Hill, Steven Kennedy, Alonzo Knox, Sibil “Fox” Richardson, and Naj Wallace – are vying to replace former state Rep. Royce Duplessis, who was elected to the state Senate late last year. HD 93 encompasses portions of the Lower Garden District, Central City, the CBD, Warehouse District, the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, Treme, Fairgrounds Triangle and 7th Ward.
Both Richardson and Kennedy are formerly incarcerated. Richardson served several years for a crime related to burglary at an automobile dealership. Kennedy was convicted on multiple drug, weapons and domestic abuse charges from 1999 to 2017, Orleans Criminal District Court records show.
Richardson has been endorsed by Duplessis. “We need a strong effective fighter with a clear vision for the future and Sibil ‘Fox’ Richardson is that fighter,” he said. Early voting will begin Saturday (Feb. 4) and continue until Saturday Feb. 11 at City Hall, the Algiers Courthouse, the Voting Machine Warehouse and the Lake Vista Community Center. Mail-in ballots are also still available through the Secretary of State. The election is on Feb. 18 —the Saturday before Mardi Gras — so early voting is advisable.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, former City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at email@example.com.
Didn’t happen in New Orleans, but look at Ronald Greene.