Sunday, September 16, 2007

Help Nagin Find the Real Killers!

Everyone start hoarding food, water, and gas because O.J. Simpson has just been arrested. You just never can know when these things are going to happen. I was just having an old-fashioned lazy Sunday when I got the word. Boy we are in for one helluva news cycle. I'm sure that many news outlets are going to be hiring extra reporters and crew so that they can give this story the type of comprehensive, round-the-clock coverage and analysis that we've come to expect. As citizens of one nation, there is nothing more important than being informed about the issues and challenges that shape our world.

He's a menace to society. I don't care what it takes, lets make sure we allocate every resource available to make sure that the coming legal battle can properly be described as "protracted."

Just think of how many book deals are at stake!

Weekends in New Orleans unfortunately mean this, this, and this.

Maybe if the suspects or victims were celebrities...

In my home town of Philadelphia, (call it whatever you want, Nagin) the police and community activists are teaming up for an unprecedented call for action. Philly has seen it murder rate skyrocket over the last few years and this year has been the bloodiest yet. Thus, the city is experimenting with a creative strategy to invigorate community-based conflict mediation. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and allied civic and religious leaders are calling for the organization of an army of 10,000 men to be trained in conflict resolution and deployed on city streets as "peace-keepers" for a period of at least 90 days.

[Johnson] said that the effort wasn't a city program, though many police commanders will be involved in training volunteers and supporting the patrolling peacekeepers, and training will take place at city recreation centers.

Community and religious leaders will be closely involved, Johnson said.

A key architect of the strategy is Dennis Muhammad, chief of security for Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. Muhammad has a Detroit-based consulting business that works with police departments on community policing and sensitivity training.

Muhammad met in City Hall last summer with Johnson, Mayor Street and some business leaders, and Johnson was enthusiastic about the notion of rallying African-American men to stem the growing tide of violence.

In an interview yesterday, Muhammad said he envisions a dramatic presence in Philadelphia's most troubled neighborhoods that could inspire a national movement.

"We plan to deploy these men and distinguish them with a colored shirt or something, and our very physical presence will become a deterrent," Muhammad said. "It would be hard to commit a crime on a corner with 200 men.

"When this is successful, we hope to bottle this and take it to every major city in the country," he said.

Johnson said he's met regularly with record-industry mogul Kenny Gamble and radio host and executive E. Stephen Collins to plan the undertaking.

Collins sees the effort as more than a Town Watch-style crime deterrent.

"The reality is that these guys on the street who seem so tough are somebody's son," Collins said in an interview. "We hope to train people how to talk to young men about their attitudes, about how they talk to young ladies.

"What we hope for is a sustained process to try and eradicate the mind-set among young people that they can go on killing each other, shooting each other at a whim," Collins said.

Volunteers will be prohibited from bringing weapons or engaging in confrontations. They will be asked to sign agreements making it clear they aren't agents of the city and aren't covered by city insurance.

Johnson said the training and patrols will be offered citywide and open to anyone, but he believes there's a special need for African-American men in Philadelphia to get involved.

There are lots of people out there, I'm sure, who are skeptical about this plan. 10,000 people is an extremely ambitious number and it is uncertain if young Philadelphians will be inspired to heed the call to service. Others will be critical of any type of collaboration with the Nation of Islam.

I for one, think it is a fantastic idea and would love for New Orleans police, politicians, and community leaders to consider organizing a similar force immediately. In both Philadelphia and New Orleans, violence has undermined efforts to improve neighborhood cohesiveness and damaged efforts to attract visitors and businesses. Communities in both cities have had trust issues with the police relating to a history of brutality, profiling, and corruption. This has coupled with an extensive gang movement to intimidate potential informants and witnesses to severely undermine the ability of police departments to investigate violent crimes and maintain safe neighborhoods. An empowered army of ordinary citizens independent of the police force will allow for the resolution of neighborhood conflicts by neighborhood people without snitching to the cops. Philadelphia's leaders, be they in office or on the street, have taken bold action to try to address an upsurge of violence.

And if Philly's got an upsurge of violence, New Orleans must have a plague. Close to 150 murders in just over 8 months for a city of 250,000 people. Citizens have been calling on the government here to do something, anything, to take back control of the streets for years and years. After high profile street protests by angry New Orleanians in January and July, our beloved Mayor, the honorable C. Ray Nagin said this in reference to the spiraling crime rate:

"Do I worry about it? Somewhat. It's not good for us, but it also keeps the New Orleans brand out there, and it keeps people thinking about our needs and what we need to bring this community back. So it is kind of a two-edged sword."

The quote enraged the city as many wondered whether Nagin's constant gaffe comments that show up in the national news and in punchlines everywhere also represent a "two-edged sword" for keeping the "brand" out there.

Now of course the honorable Mayor C. Ray Nagin has since backtracked and tried to reassert his commitment to making this city livable and safe. But where is the action?

Now there is an opportunity to try something bold. Get on the phone to Philadelphia and see about trying this new strategy out.

There is little chance the man can save his reputation no matter what he does during the final years of his administration. It's a blow-out victory for embarrassment.

But you can still show a little pride, Mr. Mayor.

You obviously haven't had any better ideas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that something like this dwould be great for New Orleans or any big city. I'm just wondering if some neighborhoods are sodevasted and there is so much for folks to do htat they might not be able to step up. Certainly, the New Orleans police department must establish some credibility.