Friday, January 23, 2009

NOPD Hiding Fund

I missed this from earlier in the week.

Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman helps administer a state fund, the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board, which helps families pay for funeral and hospital expenses. But the fund hasn't been making very many payouts, which is surprising considering that New Orleans has the highest murder rate in the industrialized world.

Gusman's office submitted 203 applications to the state board last year and 150 in 2007, resulting in a total of $330,000 delivered to victims of crime in Orleans Parish. The parish's convicts have kicked in $86,000 to the fund during the same time period, Gusman said during a City Hall meeting of the council's Criminal Justice Committee.

"That (payout) figure should be so much higher and it's not," said Capt. Mechelle Delahoussaye, who orchestrates the crime victims' reparations fund for the sheriff's office. "It looks great on paper, but that's in the year and a half in Orleans Parish. We're not running out of money."

Victims' rights advocates, including David Kent of Victims and Citizens Against Crime Inc. said NOPD officers aren't routinely handing out information about the assistance program.

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Victims don't always get an item number from responding police officers, let alone the brochure about the compensation fund, said civil rights attorney Mary Howell.

"This (informing victims) needed to be done yesterday," Howell said. "I'm sick of talking to people who don't know about it. This is not complicated. If you get into a car accident, you get an item number. But you don't get that slip of paper when your child is murdered."

NOPD Detective Latina Thomas interjected, "Every victim in any crime receives an item number. That's part of our procedure."

"It's not happening," Howell responded, adding that police are by law supposed to notify victims of the fund.


So in other words, the fund isn't being tapped because the police aren't informing the families of victims about their eligibility.

Why don't we look at how this ridiculousness hurts our community with a real life example?

Everyone remembers the tragic murder of Ja'Shawn Powell, an innocent 2-year-old child killed by his absent father around the New Year. This community remains devastated by the event but rallied in support of the victim's family, establishing a memorial fund on their behalf.

It was supported far and wide. There was a vigil, there was a second line.

The memorial fund was established to help defray funeral costs for the family, which is precisely the function of the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board's budget.

The money that should have gone to help pay for little Ja'Shawn's funeral continues to languish in a bank account while the citizens had to scramble for loose change from their couch cushions to help - all because the NOPD can't get it together to hand out brochures to the families of victims.

It is NOPD policy to inform families about the fund but apparently NOPD officers aren't doing that. So is it actually NOPD policy?

Why would Warren Riley not want to take advantage of a the Sheriff's program? It's not like there's any extra paperwork on the NOPD's end. Could it be residual resentment from Gusman's electoral victory over Riley in 2004?

5 comments:

Brian D said...

It might have something to do with the fact that Gusman distributes a flier with an unconscionably gratuitous studio portrait of him comforting a woman in distress.

Or it might have something to do with the fact that Gusman and his Morial connections beat Riley for the sheriff's spot. In retrospect, maybe we would all be better off if Riley were sheriff.

The bottom line is that both of these guys needs to stop acting so narcissistically, and start acting more compassionately.

Brian D said...

http://citizencrimewatch.org/blog/2009/01/23/louisiana-orleans-parish-crime-victims-reparation-brochures/

jeffrey said...

Brian,

Are you suggesting that Gusman's douchey flier somehow makes it okay for Riley to take it out on crime victims? It might explain things but surely Riley's reaction (denying aid to victims) is more reprehensible than Gusman's narcissism.

bayoustjohndavid said...

It might be that you need to file a police report to qualify for assistance. You might think that if the police are at the crime scene, the victim must have filed a report. That's what most victims think, but it's not always the case. However, when they apply for assistance, they get asked for the number of the police report. More victims applying for assistance = more victims realizing that a police report was never filed.

I'm not saying that a conspiracy to tamp down crime stats is the main reason that victims aren't informed about the fund (it doesn't only apply to murder cases) is the main reason why victims aren't informed about the fund, just that they would be some incentive not to tell assault victims about the fund. I can't see how that incentive would apply to informing the families of murder victims, but I finally gave up on figuring out who to hold accountable when no report was filed after I was assaulted.

Since this matter has been in the news several times in the past, I'd say it's just further evidence that when the NOPD does respond to public pressure, the response is only temporary.

bayoustjohndavid said...

Obviously, I started to write "they would have some incentive," but meant to switch to "there would be some incentive," in the second paragraph.

I really hate hate jerks that think they're making some kind of point when they point out grammatical errors in blog comments.