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October 6, 2011 13:48 Tough Sentences for Danziger Bridge Officers Turned Witnesses Federal prosecutors yesterday asked for leniency in sentencing two former New Orleans police officers who pleaded guilty to participating in the cover-up of the notorious post-Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings. CONTINUE »
September 15, 2011 13:26 FBI Agents To Monitor New Orleans Police Two FBI agents will be stationed full time in the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau, the department and the FBI jointly announced this week. The agents, whose presence was requested by the NOPD, will investigate allegations of significant corruption or civil rights violations in the department. CONTINUE »
August 5, 2011 14:07 Verdict: Five NOPD Officers Guilty in Danziger Bridge Shootings, Cover-Up A federal jury today found all five Danziger Bridge defendants guilty of the shootings that killed two civilians and seriously wounded four others in the days after Hurricane Katrina. The jury also found the officers guilty of a massive cover-up that lasted nearly five years. Five NOPD officers had previously pleaded guilty in the case. CONTINUE »
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Interview Warren J. Riley

Warren J. Riley

Riley retired as superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department in 2010; during Katrina he was second in command. He was a member of the NOPD for 29 years. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on May 21, 2010.

[You joined the force in 1981, shortly after the Algiers 7 NOPD brutality case]. It must seem light years away, or does it?

No, I wouldn't say light years away, because throughout my career, there have been issues that have occurred -- and I won't go into any great details -- that let me know that although the vast majority of men and women who work for NOPD don't have those issues, there was always a little group, a core group that still had that separatist mentality, ... that racial mentality, that divisive mentality.

Through my 29-year career, I worked with [some of those individuals], ... although the vast majority of my experiences were very positive, with really good officers and good people. But does racism and divisiveness exist within NOPD? Yes, it does. But it is not widespread.

... I've heard that this majority-black city often feels it's not black or white in the police; it is the blue. They feel the fear of the blue more than the race of the officer sometimes.

[It] depends on the community that you go to. The more affluent communities, the middle-class communities, the educated communities, they for the most part respect and care and like the police. When you go into some of the poorer areas, then it becomes not the majority, but a significant amount respect the police and have a good relationship with the police. But then there's that segment of community who, for whatever reasons, because of their personal experiences, because they have been stopped by the police or because an officer has disrespected them or because they have gone to jail, have an issue with the police. ...

And it's not always a white officer who disrespects an African American citizen. Sometimes it is an African American officer. One of my biggest challenges [as superintendent], and something that I focused on, was professionalism. I even created an Office of Compliance to really view those things. It was successful, but it doesn't take but a handful of incidents to destroy the reputation and to keep that fear out there by citizens.

That fear is actually what I sometimes hear just in casual conversations. And I did go into the poor neighborhoods and talk to people, and it's funny how names from the past come up, the names you would expect.

You mean officers'?

... It seemed like between the Algiers 7, [former New Orleans police officer and convicted killer] Len Davis, the Adolph Archie incident ... it wasn't really race anymore. If there was a rogue element, it was that blue.

I think still to phrase it as "blue" -- that perception is out there because the officers do a phenomenal job. There are a lot of officers -- the vast majority risk their lives, serve the public, are professional, are courteous. ...

“There's not one iota of evidence to show that anyone was killed or raped in the Superdome. … But you have to realize we were hearing these rumors and we were believing these things as well initially.”

You talk about Len Davis; that's a story that will never ever die. The Adolph Archie incident, I'm skeptical about that. I don't know who you've talked to, but there's some skepticism on whether Adolph Archie died in the hospital as it relates to something medically, something a doctor did, or something a police officer did. There's two sides to that story. ...

On that particular story, how he died was less [the issue than] the broadcasting of that whole incident, how it became a very big public event. And these things people remember. That's the fear. So you must have had to deal with these things all the time.

What's interesting is that you mentioned Adolph Archie, but nobody mentions Officer Earl Hauck, who Adolph Archie killed. And I don't know exactly how Adolph Archie died, ... but what I can say is that Adolph Archie did in fact steal [an] officer's weapon, and he did kill a police officer. ...

Do you remember that event specifically?

I was a young officer. I was actually off duty ... when the call came across my radio that an officer had been shot. ... I remember that clear. Yeah, you remember when an officer is killed.

... I think we can all agree that these kind of outlier situations that have significant waves, ripples, and that these big names and events stick in people's imaginations and their thinking [when it comes to the relationship with the police]. ...

... Those things live forever within the community of New Orleans because they were big stories. And those stories went on for weeks and weeks. Then they became international. ... So these types of incidents will live on forever. ...

... [Does] it have an impact on policing? Is that a fair statement?

Certainly, because it's a perception. ... New Orleans probably has the most frustrated community and citizens in the United States right now. We had Katrina. People had failures by the federal government, state government, local government, National Guard, local police, insurance companies; losing their homes, losing their cars, losing their personal possessions, losing their jobs, having to relocate, live away. Some want to come back, can't get back; some just came back.

And just as we begin to turn a corner, with some positive things happening in the city, we now have this [Deepwater Horizon] ecological disaster. So here we're on the front page of national news again with negativity. ...

And people aren't satisfied. People still need someone to blame their frustrations on. And it's either on law enforcement or political leadership, because those are the individuals on the front line. ...

I guess it's like Forrest Gump: it's a box of chocolate. When cops arrive, what are you going to get? Is it the professional cop, or you going to get a rogue cop? Ninety percent of these men and women do the right thing, but that perception is out there that more than a few are incompetent or rogue. It's really not the case.

But the Len Davis thing, the [Officer] Gregory Neupert [Algiers 7] incident, the Adolph Archie incident and others certainly have tarnished the reputation of this police department. And it's going to take some time, and it's going to take some consistency over a number of years of no major incidents, in order for this police department to regain the trust of the majority of its citizens.

... Let's jump to Katrina. ... What was your role at that point?

I was the assistant superintendent, or second in charge of the department. ... When Katrina hit, Superintendent [Eddie Compass] basically took control of the police department. He made a lot of decisions, and you have to realize we lost complete command and control of the police department when our communication system went down. Katrina hit on Aug. 29; sometime midday on Aug. 30 we lost complete communications. Our radio system went down; our backup system failed. ... So we were out of communication for 80 hours.

So basically you have to realize 80 percent of the city was covered by water. We had no power, no lights. We basically had to send runners to try and send messages to people, which wasn't really effective because you needed a car, and sometimes you needed a boat, and then you needed a car again. That's how this city was.

You had to send a runner?

It's almost like the Civil War. When you wanted to get a message to some other general, you put a runner on a horse and you sent the message five miles down. That's basically where we were. ...

... It must be just like operating on Mars.

I wouldn't say it was so futuristic. I mean, we were going back in time. It was a pretty desperate and drastic situation. Cell phones were not working. The satellite phones were not working. And it caused chaos, and it caused rumors that some officers had drowned, some officers' family members had drowned.

These things turned out to not be true, but because we didn't have communications for a period of time, and the news reports -- we didn't have television. We didn't know that we were supposedly looting. We didn't know that officers were supposedly shooting people. ...

Maybe it was several days later cell phones were working, and my daughter called me crying, saying that Chief Compass was killed, that they reported that he was killed. I said, "Where did you get that?" She said, "It's on the news right now, Dad." I said: "Not at all. I saw him 10 minutes ago."

... You said at one point everything was embellished; everything was exaggerated. ... What was the embellishment like?

... The stories that people had died in the [Louisiana] Superdome, that people were being raped -- there's not one iota of evidence to show that anyone was killed or raped in the Dome. There was one older gentleman who jumped off the second level of the Dome, committed suicide. But you have to realize we were hearing these rumors and we were believing these things as well initially.

... There's some of this that was actually being propagated by leadership, too.

There was misinformation that was presented by leadership, some leadership that certainly probably caused some of the negativity.

Which ones? Which incidents are you talking about?

I'm not going to name names or point fingers, but some of the things about people dying in the Dome and babies dying and things like that, that just wasn't true. And there was a member of the police department who made some comments, and it was unfortunate. ... When I took over, I asked the news reporter, "Why do you all keep spreading these rumors?," and they said, "Well, your chief said it." I said, "But he made a mistake." They said, "But he said it, so we're reporting that."

... [The misinformation] had an impact, didn't it?

It impacted the citizens of New Orleans certainly when it was reported by the media. And I'm not blaming the media, but when it was reported, it wasn't verified, and citizens from New Orleans who are all over the country were in fear that they might lose a loved one. ... So it made a bad situation worse.

Did it also have an impact on law enforcement officers?

Absolutely. I'm sure it did. They didn't want this to be a chaotic situation.

There were places where we knew we had chaos. We knew we had looters on Canal Street. That was chaotic because we pulled our tactical units off Canal Street and sent them out on boat rescue. We thought the National Guard would be in to assist us within 24 hours. They weren't, so instead of having 200 cops in the [French] Quarter, in the Canal Street area, we ended up having about 40, and they just couldn't handle the individuals that were there. But our priority was to save lives. So there was chaos on Canal Street for a period of time. That was, in fact, a fact.

The rumors about the Superdome were not factual. The rumors about the Convention Center were not factual. ...

Were the rumors of shooting at helicopters [true]?

... I think there was one guy in Algiers who shot a pistol at a helicopter, and he was arrested some days after the storm. But when the helicopters were flying over water, boats were driving by homes, ... you had people in attics, and officers are riding by in boats, these people are shooting through the roofs to let people know that they were there. That's what the gunfire was for the most part.

It wasn't wholesale attacks on rescuers?

Not at all. Now, there may have been a couple of incidents somewhere, but the majority of those were people in their attics that couldn't get out. They would shoot through the roof; the officer would tap on the window and say: "This is the police on the roof. We'll get you out. Stop shooting." And then they would use chainsaws or crowbars or whatever, would cut holes in their roofs and pull them out. ...

It was pretty awful, and I don't think America will ever fully understand the tragedy that occurred here, how proud they should be of the men and women who were here, who did the right things, because 50,000 people were rescued and saved. ...

How many police officers in all of this melee that we've heard about were actually killed?

We didn't have any officer who was killed. We had one officer who was shot in the head, Officer Kevin Thomas. We just went to court about three months ago, and the subjects were convicted of attempted murder. ... We had two officers, Officer [Lawrence] Celestine and Officer [Paul] Accardo, who committed suicide. And we had another officer who died ... from an infection that he received during the storm. ...

How many incidents of [shootings at police] do we know [of]?

Our 1st District, which is Rampart Street, some guy with a high-power weapon was firing on the building from like a sniper position. ... They saw the gunfire, and they returned fire with some automatic weapons. All I know is that the sniper disappeared. ...

We believed we would lose some officers from drowning. We had officers who were stuck in their attics. We had officers that were calling for help immediately after the storm, who were not scheduled to come into work until later that day and said their houses were flooding. The water was to their necks; they were in their attics. So we thought we would lose some officers to drowning. Fortunately we did not. We did not lose any officers at the hands of an individual or an assailant. ...

... At the time, you really kind of thought these things might be happening, right? ... How does that affect the thinking at that point, not just of you, but of the police officers out there doing the business?

We're quasi-military, so we know that the possibility of losing individuals on a daily basis exists, and then [during] a catastrophic event [it] certainly exists. The goal was to continue running the police department, focusing on regaining control of the city, focusing on food and water for our civilians, focusing on getting people out of the city. So we continued to focus on our mission all the while understanding that officers' lives were in jeopardy.

Those district commanders, when communications went down, they had to run their districts as if they were running a police department. That district became their city. So they had to do whatever they thought was necessary, that [was] within [the] law to do what was right, to gain control and to ensure the safety of citizens as well as the officers.

How is that [thinking] impacting you, all these elements playing out [in] this echo chamber of craziness?

... It is collateral damage in a sense, but you have to move on. So the relief came in the aftermath when we realized we didn't have any officers killed. But it still was tragic, because we had citizens killed on the Danziger Bridge that we knew about. We knew about a young man that an officer had killed on Convention Center Boulevard. We knew that people were drowning. We knew that because we saw the bodies in the water. ... The tragedy was that we lost 1,600 New Orleanians. ...

[Did the shooting of] Kevin Thomas have an effect in the police department? ... When you put that [incident] into the mix of all this craziness, what was the impact?

... On a normal day in law enforcement, an officer is killed within your department, ... the impact is dramatic. When you tie that into America's greatest catastrophe, it's there, but you're so focused and so busy that it doesn't have the same impact, you know? You don't go to bed thinking about it all night. If you got any sleep, you thought about it, you prayed for him, and you moved to the next task. ...

... Officers are saying they're running out of ammunition. It's the first time in 25 years you're hearing that?

... I heard an officer request on the radio, he said, "I need more ammo; we need more ammo." It was on the Mutual Aid channel and actually turned out to not be one of NOPD's officers. At the time we thought it was one of NOPD's officers, and because of the Mutual Aid channel, you have four parishes, four police agencies using one channel. ...

So that in a way adds to it, right?

Imagine. That's what you hear in the movies; that's what you see in a war movie. You don't hear that in urban policing where you're out of ammo.

... According to [then-Communications Director] Sally Forman's notes, [the mayor declared martial law that day]. This all happens in one day: You have Kevin Thomas, Canal Street [looting], this transmission you're hearing, stuff going on in the Superdome, and it just seems like things are really spiraling.

... I heard rumors that martial law was in place, and then I heard rumors that no, it was not. So from my end, martial law was never, ever in place, because I never heard that directly from the mayor. ...

When you say there was a rumor out, you were hearing that from where?

Just the officers on the street, people saying, "It's martial law." Then I never saw a document, I never saw a signature, and I never heard that.

... We actually found a videotape of a captain saying, "We're now acting under the rules of martial law."

And that may be the case, but because of communications, I'll bet a lot of people did not understand that, because I'll be honest with you: I did not understand -- and to this day believe -- that we were under martial law.

You didn't understand it, but you were hearing that you were?

I was hearing the rumors. But if I didn't hear it from Chief Compass or the mayor, then it wasn't martial law. I didn't care what I heard on the street.

And it was never a point of clarification that you would hear it on the street, and you'd go say, "Mayor, what's the deal?"

No, because there were times, at some points, when I went and talked to the mayor when I couldn't locate or contact Chief Compass, because I was always in headquarters or I was at Harrah's. Chief Compass was doing a lot of different things. So all I can tell you is that the rumor was out there, but I don't remember receiving a direct order or information that we were under martial law. But it was certainly a strong rumor. …

Tell me about your command post.

... We evacuated [police headquarters] on [Aug.] 30. I brought the 38 officers or so down, and we started to really focus on recapturing, gaining control of Canal Street. I drove up to Harrah's, and I saw half of the officers sitting over there -- they appeared to be resting -- and the general manager of Harrah's was there. He stated that he was leaving town, but that if we wanted he would leave the generator on so that we'd have lights under the valet area, which was a pretty huge area. It's the length of the building. So that was the only place in the city that had lights. It's outdoors, but it was covered, so we chose to make that our field command post.

How many people would be there at any given time?

... We begin to have roll calls there every morning, where all the captains, lieutenants, tactical units would have to report, so sometimes you had 120 people there. As a functioning operation, you [had] probably 25 or 30 people there consistently.

This is where you'd come to present? You would have meetings; you would do your roll call.

Yes. That's where we put our grid maps up to start coordinating search and rescue, where the National Guard came in. We put maps up on the brick wall; we taped them to the wall. We began to divide all of the water areas for rescue into grids so that we wouldn't be re-searching the same areas. We begin to divide the Lower Ninth Ward, the Upper Ninth Ward, Lakeview, New Orleans East, into grids, and we begin to send the FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] people in who came in to do search and rescue to those grids. And that's when they begin to mark the houses with the paint and all. ...

... Did you have a sense that this is time to get control of the city back?

I probably did. ... We already had control of the Quarter, which we never lost. And now we're focusing on rescue as well. But we're also focusing on making sure that we protected the pharmacies and the shopping centers, where we knew people would go.

Now, the biggest hindrance with all of that was when we caught looters, we had no prison. Prison was underwater, prison was evacuated and shut down. There was no alternative prison in place for seven days. ... When looters were apprehended, we basically had to let them go, so the word got out that they're not arresting anybody. The jail is down, so the looters would recycle, just go back, and they became a bigger problem.

I believe it was seven days later the Department of Corrections came in and set up a prison at the Greyhound bus station. We brought them there; they checked them in via computer. They basically handcuffed them to a pole. There was a long fence where they would just handcuff them to poles or to the fence. When they got 50 people, they would put them on a bus; they drove them to a prison out of town.

No matter what we did, it was impossible to get control of the city early on, because we had nowhere to bring the looters.

There's the big debate about what is a looter.

A looter by law is a person who enters a dwelling or a business with the intent to steal, a dwelling or a business that has been abandoned or unoccupied, abandoned by ownership or unoccupied due to an emergency or catastrophic event. Other than that, it's a burglary. ...

"Looter" out in the mainstream, it's pejorative, usually associated with somebody who's taken something they shouldn't have, even if it's just a piece of a sandwich or some diapers, right?

... One of the general managers from Walmart, he said: "Anything you all need, take it and use it. Anything citizens of New Orleans need, give it to them -- clothes, whatever.'' So as it relates to food, water, things for survival, that's one thing. But big-screen televisions, stereos, Jet Skis, fishing poles -- people were stealing those types of things.

... So looting was really getting out of control?

The looting got out of control. ...

... In the context of this time, too, there's a lack of control that you're feeling that week?

Oh, absolutely.

And how bundled up is that [lack of control] with the looting then?

... It was a chaotic situation that -- along with the fact that our tactical units, who were designated to really put down the looting, were now saving lives on boats; they're out rescuing people. So this was a perfect storm, so to speak, as it relates to creating chaos, insufficient resources going against an overwhelming result and wrath of Mother Nature.

When a mayor says, "Go take back the city," and you're telling that to your troops, ... how does that really translate in operational terms then?

It's hard for me to comment on that, because I don't remember that being exactly what was stated.

... At the meetings at Harrah's, did you ever say: "It's time. We've got to take our city back"?

I may have said, "We need to take control of the city." That may have happened.

Do you think you ever said anything like, "Looters, it's time to do things like shoot to kill"?

No. You're mixing me up with someone else. I didn't say anything like that.

Who said that?

I didn't say that. I heard rumors that someone else said that, but I certainly didn't say that, no.

"Things are getting pretty bad out there; just go ahead and shoot to kill"? Nothing like that?

Never, never, never, never.

One of the captains on this tape that we have says that. He says, "Martial law, go out and shoot looters." Was that attitude ever out there?

... It was certainly nothing I ever condoned or directed anyone to do. I don't know that I can't say that wasn't stated by someone. I don't know, because I heard the rumors.

You have to realize, without having communications, you didn't take for granted that everything you heard was factual. And from my point, if I didn't get it from the mayor or the superintendent, then it wasn't happening.

... You never said: "It's time to take the city back here. Shoot all looters"?

Not at all. ... You sure you're talking to the right chief?

That's what they said. And I've talked to three --

They said that I said that?

Yeah.

No, not at all.

... I'm trying to get into the head of the average police officer who's out there, who's hearing martial law, Kevin Thomas, shoot to kill, all these kinds of things that you have flying about. How does that impact on the bottom line?

I don't know that you can quantify that in a systematic way throughout the police department, because depending on where you were, your circumstances were different.

If you were at the Dome, you talked to the officers at the Dome. Nobody was being raped; nobody was being killed. They were trying to help people get out of the Dome.

The officers at the Convention Center, as I stated, they said nobody was shooting at them. They were just out socializing and casually talking to the citizens. ...

I'm sure if you were at the 1st District and people were firing on you, you had a completely different mentality. ...

The vast majority of officers were trying to save lives and protect property, not take lives. How irrational can you be to shoot somebody who has a television? That would be foolish. That's what martial law might make a person think, but I don't think there were any looters that were shot.

Henry Glover.

That's true. ... My knowledge of that was a couple of years later.

Yeah, even so, though, if that's the case, then it still happened.

That's something I can't talk about. It's an ongoing federal investigation. That's something I won't even comment about.

What about just generally speaking about the police shootings during this period of time? There were 11 in that week.

All of them are under federal investigation, so those things I'm just not going to comment on.

... With regard to the Danziger [Bridge] incident, you were pretty horrified when you found this out?

I was disappointed, disgusted for officers to intentionally have covered up that incident, to have covered it up with malice. It's pretty appalling to me. Everyone involved in that coverup dishonored every person who wears the uniform.

I disagree with the federal government in cutting deals with them. I think they need to go to jail for the maximum amount of time, because we should have been saving lives. For them to have participated collectively [in] and covered up something as awful as that is just unacceptable, and it is something that they should suffer severely for. ...

... You said you didn't know about it until several years later.

No, I knew about Danziger when it happened. ... When what's called a 108 came out, which is ''officer needs assistance,'' we could hear a running gun battle. We could hear officers calling for assistance. We could hear officers saying, ''Perpetrator down.'' We could hear officers saying, ''Chasing an individual with a gun.'' We could hear those things, which gave validity to the incident, based on face value, so to speak.

From what I've heard, everybody heard the same thing.

We all heard a running gun battle. ... How did this running gun battle that sounds horrible, even for the police, turn into what it turned into? A coverup. So there's some pieces of the puzzle haven't been revealed yet.

... What I've heard is that everything was very difficult, and the police were feeling on the defensive, and then the Danziger Bridge incident happens. … It was a good thing. It seemed to be a really big relief. It seemed to be a turning point. Is that a fair [characterization]? ...

... After all the federal investigations, I will be more than happy to give you more detail. But what I can tell you is that on [Aug. 30], we had Kevin Thomas shot in the head. He was still in critical condition. On the 2nd [of September], we have Officer Celestine committed suicide after hearing rumors that his family died, which turned out not to be true. Then the next day, on the 3rd, you have Paul Accardo's suicide. So in four days we have one officer in critical condition, two officers dead, and now we have a running gun battle, and no officers were killed. So ... there probably was some relief. ...

... [Did you read the police department's internal report on the Danziger case?]

I was briefed on the report. ... And based on my briefing, that case was being turned over to the district attorney's office for review. Ultimately the district attorney's office had to decide whether or not he would pursue that case. After his review, he chose to pursue that case. ...

And the 61-page report, you never read?

I did not read, no. We had 200 murders a year. I am briefed. People at my level don't normally sit down and read. That's why we have deputy chiefs, and that's why we have staffs. We're briefed; we ask probing questions about the investigation, the who, what, when, where, why and how. ... It was submitted to the DA. The DA decided to prosecute.

Do you miss the NOPD?

... I took over four weeks after Katrina. I think I did an outstanding job rebuilding the police department, rebuilding our numbers. We got better technology, more equipment, pay raises. ...

Our crime has been down three years in a row. Over the last two years our murders are down 18 percent. Other crime is down 24 percent, although we haven't gotten much credit for it because there's so many other issues. So I think we've done a really good job.

I was wondering if you had any memories of NOPD. ...

I'm very happy with my 29 years, although there's been some very difficult and adverse times. I thought it would be bittersweet. I think I left the New Orleans Police Department in an outstanding position to move forward, and if that was my calling, then I truly feel as though I've succeeded.

Do I miss it after four weeks? I miss some of the people. I look at the news right now, and I see what's going on, and I'll be honest with you: For me to realize that I don't have to go and deal with that issue right now actually feels good. ...

Looking forward, let's say, five, 10 years, how is the Riley administration of the NOPD going to be viewed? ...

Under my administration as superintendent of police and my deputy chiefs, there is not one federal investigation, not one. I'm not pointing the finger at anyone; I'm simply saying that a lot of this happened during America's worst disaster. ...

[If] people really look at the 50,000 lives that were saved, and not just look at just the negative side, if people would look at the hundreds and hundreds of officers who dove in the water, who broke into attics, who saved lives --

The heroics.

Nobody is looking at that. And I understand that negativity sells, but there's another side. ... People think that these officers were cowards and thieves and hoodlums.

... Most people [I've spoken to] say 95 percent of NOPD officers are upstanding, strong, vigilant heroes, especially in that time. ... But my question is, does that completely explain everything?

I don't have the knowledge of everything that happened. Nobody does. And if you were to interview 10 officers who were in 10 different locations of the city, you'd learn 10 new things, because I've actually done that, and I'm amazed at some of the stories I've heard. I'm amazed at some of the heroic things that people did.

It is a tragedy that some officers didn't uphold the badge, didn't protect and serve the citizens the way they should have. But if I have to choose and say that leadership was bad because 10 officers did something wrong and 1,500 of them did something right, I'm not going to take that blame.

I do know that NOPD is responsible ultimately for the actions of officers who do the wrong thing, but I choose to be proud of the 90 percent who did the right thing, and I choose to focus on those individuals. To those families who suffered at the hands of officers, they certainly have my complete sympathy, and I'm ashamed at what those officers did. And it is truly a tragedy.

I also have to believe that it was leadership. If we're going to take the blame for the 5 percent that did bad, then we need to take credit for the 95 percent who did the right thing. Do I hold my head down? Absolutely not. Am I ashamed of those officers who did wrong? Absolutely. And should they suffer the consequences? Absolutely.

What I do admire about the Madison family is they have not vilified all of NOPD, even during their most tragic time. Dr. Madison had been a gentleman; his family has been upstanding. The Bartholomew family, I know they're suffering, and I certainly pray that God finds a way to help them understand and deal with their loss. But they have said it better than anyone else. They're not vilifying this entire police department because of what a handful of thugs have done. You know, there are bad doctors out there; there are bad TV producers; there are bad lawyers. There are bad people in everything. If you have 10, you're going to find one or two that's just not going to do the right thing.

And how long does it take to get over this? Does it take the federal government?

The federal government is absolutely necessary, and the most important reason is because nothing else was going to restore confidence. Not that what the federal government will do will truly make an impact, but their presence will give comfort to our citizens, and that's important that they feel like something is being done.

... One of the things that I find fascinating [about New Orleans] is the relationship between the community and the police department. It's unlike any other city I've ever seen. What is that about? Define that for me.

Twenty-seven percent of our population lives [in] poverty. Bad education system, too many blighted areas -- it is not just police and citizen that causes this issue. The police are part of the solution and a part of the problem when you have melting pots of drug dealers, criminal activities and good-quality citizens.

Good-quality citizens sometimes are stopped by the police. They live in areas that have problems. They're afraid of their neighbors, who are criminals; then they get stopped by the police. New Orleans is a melting pot, and it's unique in a lot of ways. ...

So it's poverty?

Poverty, the lack of education, social ills. Parks, playgrounds are insufficient. There are a lot of things. ... In order for this entire thing to change, there has to be a holistic approach.

When was the first time, as a police officer, you ever heard the term ham sandwich?

In that Bill of Information [PDF] [in the Danziger Bridge case].

You never of a ham sandwich before then?

Never heard. Within NOPD you have several different cultures as well. And that was a culture I was not a part of. I had never heard that before.

You've known about those kinds of, the dropped gun kind of incident before, conceptually?

I've heard about dropped guns, surely, I've heard about that. But I've never heard to it referred to as a ham sandwich. Never.

We heard it from a guy the other day and he said it could be a gun, it could be a pipe, it could be you know, couple rocks of meth. And he also said it's pretty old school. I mean he says that it goes way back.

I've been on 29 years; I've never heard the term. When I got the Bill of Information, and I read it, I didn't know it was a common term. I thought that the person was being sarcastic by saying it was a ham sandwich. So what you're telling me is that it is actually a term used for planting of some sort of illegal evidence. And I'm being honest with you, I've never heard that before.

posted august 25, 2010

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