nola.com Vieux Carre forum members lunanola and Camiznola got the ball rolling on the meeting at Buffa's Lounge today on Esplanade. When I arrived at the meeting, the attendees were asking City Councilmembers James Carter and Arnie Fielkow about the system Citizen Crime Watch founder Brian Denzer presented to them last Thursday known as NOLAStat and why it wasn't being adopted. Fielkow urged the people gathered there to strongly urge the new CTO, whoever it may be, to adopt Denzer's proposal...but, in the meantime, contact interim CTO Harrison Boyd about it. (That number, not given by Fielkow, is 658-7900)
There was some mention by Fielkow of the fact that no representatives of the NOPD were at Buffa's. He said the police needed a formal invitation from the organizers of the Buffa's meeting in order to send one of their officers to the meeting (which then prompted someone to ask at a later point in the meeting if that invitation needed to be engraved). The problem with that, someone else protested, is that whenever a representative of the NOPD came to meetings, the song remained the same: "We're doing what we can." "We're going to keep working on it." "Things will get better."
"Are the police doing foot patrols?" Carter asked. The whole room resounded with NOs.
"You never see police doing foot patrols," a woman said.
"How much longer will the military police be here, 'cause I feel safer with them here than with NOPD," a man at another table declared.
Fielkow said that what needed to come out of the Buffa's meeting was a "laundry list" of grievances, and then he could facilitate a meeting between some chosen representatives of the assembled group and Chief Warren Riley. His "throw down" came later.
BIG fact: in the vicinity of where Wendy Byrne was murdered, there were five armed robberies and one carjacking.
"We want the police to do their job."
Problem is, the police were not in attendance at the meeting. It is clear that there are serious issues with trust between the police and citizens - there were a few stories told of people blown off, intimidated, or arrested themselves when they were victims of crimes.
Who do the citizens call for complaints against the police? Internal Affairs is a start: 658-6800
Someone proposed helping everyone in attendance at the meeting get concealed carry licenses at $350-$400 a pop, since nothing freaks out the police more than an armed populace (nothing would freak me out more, either, actually).
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro urged everyone to keep trying to register complaints against the police when intimidation instances and other police misdeeds occurred, and if all were still fruitless in their efforts to hold the police accountable in reporting crime accurately and civilly, to contact the DA's office.
Bottom line: the right people to talk to were not at Buffa's today...but it is questionable whether or not they would have even listened today, much less taken the criticism and the tired anger of all in attendance and made some constructive changes in how things are done in fighting the city's massive crime problems.
It starts at the top of the NOPD.
And the top, according to Buffa's meeting attendee Jimmy Delery, used to run interference for former chief Eddie Compass, telling film crews who had probing queries about the NOPD, "We refuse to talk if you're going to ask those questions."
We keep asking the questions, Chief Riley.
Eventually, you will have to answer them - because it is our lives you are putting on the line.