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Orleans D.A. and police chief at odds on how to stop violent crime

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:33 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The chief of police and the district attorney in New Orleans held separate press conferences Wednesday as the city begs for a solution to a violent crime problem that stretched into another year.

NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson says he is not backing down from a statement he’s made numerous times in the past concerning violent offenders and a lack of accountability.

“Hell yes, when I say there’s no accountability or there’s no consequences for their actions... that is a collective statement that we all need to come together and figure out,” says Chief Ferguson.

In a separate press conference Wednesday, District Attorney Jason Williams called the chief’s comments rhetoric, blaming everyone else in the criminal legal system.

“I am even more fed up when I hear that there is finger-pointing or blame that someone is arrested on a Monday and out on a Monday. That’s not happening. It’s a false narrative,” says D.A. Williams.

More: 2 arrested for armed carjackings released on bond within 48 hours

Williams says police officers are not making enough violent crime arrests. Ferguson, though, says his officers work around the clock to solve these cases.

“For someone to ever question [officers’] character, their will, or their commitment to this city, I have a problem with that,” says Ferguson.

“This is how they are being deployed, and what they are being told to prioritize by leadership,” says Williams.

More: Police union pres. blames D.A., city administration, and manpower for recent crime surge

“Finger-pointing will not get us anywhere. I don’t do that. My mother taught me, you point a finger at someone, and guess what, you’ll have a thumb pointed right back at you,” says Ferguson.

“Is it finger-pointing to state what the actual solve rate is in this community or is that a fact?” says Williams.

Williams says his office has new initiatives in place to hold carjackers accountable for their actions, among other things, but he says the NOPD’s solve rate must get better.

Chief Ferguson says oftentimes, they’re re-arresting the same individuals who are pushed through what’s been called the “revolving door” of Criminal Court.

“If we convict 30 percent of the arrests that are made for the 100 percent of the calls for service from people who are victimized, that means 70 percent of the folks that are committing armed robberies, murders and carjackings are still walking around our street,” says Williams.

“I’m not going to play this blame game. I’m not going to go back and forth. My tables are right here, empty. My seats are empty. We welcome any conversation just as we had last week about what we can do better and how we can make our city safer,” says Ferguson.

Chief Ferguson says he and D.A. Williams sat down last week to discuss recent plea agreements, but he says at that time, the D.A. didn’t mention anything about concerns over the NOPD’s solve rate or lack of evidence in cases.

“I’m not going back and forth about this. We have a job and we need to damn well do it,” says Ferguson.

Both the District Attorney and Police Chief say they’re committed to stopping violent crime. They also agree they’ll have to work together to make that happen.

The president of the Police Association of New Orleans penned a letter addressed to the city council where he laid blame for the broken criminal justice system on the district attorney’s office, city administration, and the current police manpower issue.

In the letter, Mike Glasser airs many grievances of the union and claims District Attorney Jason Williams “has no interest in protecting the community.”

“The question is what does he prosecute? Are these charges diminished and dropped down from their original charges and people get to plea out with little or no jail time?” Glasser asked. “When we make an arrest and there’s no bail or little bail or no cash bail, they’re released almost immediately. And in some cases they’re not prosecuted at all, or their charges are diminished to something less and they serve no time, so there’s no penalty.”

Glasser said the NOPD’s ongoing issue of attrition has become unsustainable, and when officers are arresting and having to re-arrest suspects, it’s demoralizing.

“They have no job fulfillment. And they’re watching the crime go up, their numbers go down, and the ability to work is severely hampered,” he said.

On top of that, Glasser said officers who are leaving NOPD to join other jurisdictions often voice frustration with the department’s disciplinary policy and promotions process.

Of the around 1,600 officers the department has budgeted, Glasser said they currently have a little more than 900 officers, or around 60 percent.

“A lot of the internal problems with NOPD could be solved,” Glasser said. “It’s going to take some drastic action, but not impossible action. It just has to be done. We have to have an admission of where we are.”

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