Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Buried on ABC26

I'm really glad Cliff is back to discussing municipal issues again. On Sunday, he questioned the rationale behind the DA's hiring of fired NOPD officer David Lapene.

[W]hy would he hire someone that was fired from the police department for a fight that appears to be racially motivated? When I read the story I was trying to imagine what he had to do to get fired from the police department. It’s not like the NOPD has a history of zero tolerance for bad behavior so he had to really do or say something crazy to be terminated. There was five officers involved in the fight and he is the only one that got terminated. Is Leon Cannizzarro playing good ole boy politics at the expense of potentially losing trials down the line? The reason I say that is because I am sure not many people will know who David Lapene is when he is out looking for evidence or interviewing witnesses. My worry is what’s going to happen when that defense attorney tells the jury that will certainly have some black people on it, the person responsible for the evidence was once fired from the police force for fighting and shouting racial slurs at a bunch of black transit authority workers. All it takes is one person with enough distrust of the system to hang a jury.

That's the substance of the matter and Cliff does a great job explaining precisely why this was a really stupid hire by the new DA. Today David at the Gambit reported that Mr. Lapene has resigned. In a letter to DA Cannizzaro, Lapene wrote he was stepping down because "continuing my employment with you could interfere with your good work in attempting to make a positive difference in this community.”

I'd like to point everyone's attention to this report from ABC26's Meg Gatto, the substance of which has not seemed to permeate the rest of the media for reasons I don't understand.

This was not just a thoughtless hire. It smacks of nepotism. Cannizzaro got put through the paces on WBOK on Monday morning and he deserved it.

That said, this morning Clay lists a bunch of links related to the feud between Cannizzaro and Police Superintendent Warren Riley and really Riley's generally shameful stewardship of the NOPD. I really wish WBOK's morning team would give Mr. Riley the same tough questions they did Mr. Cannizzaro instead of worshipping him like he's god's gift to crime fighting like they have the last few times I've listened in.

Another thing to note is that ABC 26 continues to be the only embeddable local news station. Considering they're not at the top of the ratings heap, this strikes me as an important competitive advantage they've given themselves to help increase the impact of their reports. Their hounding of Mr. Cannizzaro over his daughter's connections to Mr. Lapene is, IMO, what precipitated Mr. Lapene's resignation.


Anonymous said...

The D.A. has a habit of hiring folks with racial double-standards--even his black hires. He hired Capt. Jeff Winn from NOPD as his Chief investigator. Winn, who is African American, recently quit, but he was the one who vouched for Lapene. Who is Jeff Winn? He's was the SWAT commander who, during Katrina, approved only one rescue mission at the convention center: the "rescue" of two white women. Here from the Washington Post, September 15, 2005:
"That same day, the New Orleans police made a dramatic entrance. Sgt. Hans Ganthier and 12 other New Orleans SWAT team members entered the center, M-4 commando rifles at the ready. Prayers had been answered -- only it was a rescue mission of a different purpose.

A Jefferson Parish police deputy had appealed to SWAT team Capt. Jeff Winn for help in bringing out his wife and a female relative from the center. "He knew they were there and was hearing nightmarish stories," said Ganthier, who declined to identify the officer for security reasons.

Winn approved the mission.

When the SWAT team entered at 11 a.m., the Jefferson Parish officer called out his wife's name. She heard him, and along with the relative rushed to his side. The SWAT team put the women in the middle of the team, then backed out the door.

Once it became clear that the SWAT team had come with the single goal of rescuing two white women, anger exploded.

"Racists!" one man cried out.

"Some people were upset we weren't rescuing them," said Ganthier. "It's hard to leave people behind like that, but we were aiding an officer."

Elsewhere, Winn proudly recounts killing a man driving a water truck who Winn says brandished a weapon. Killing someone taking water to people during Katrina sounds like a low-priority task.

E said...

Did Winn recently quit the DA or did he recently quit the NOPD? What were the circumstances of his exit from the NOPD?

Anonymous said...

Ok, you have your own issue here. I listen to WBOK also.

WBOK plays up PC Riley, to put it politely, because the political group(s) that run WBOK are now advocating for Riley (and others, like Murray, Lombard) to run for mayor. It connects to Sylvain and branch out from there.

When do people start connecting the political dots on WBOK? Let's talk about that.

As for Lapene, let's remember something (another issue you fail to mention) - the DA has been desperate for investigators. So he went and got a guy with good street experience.

Did Lapene act racially? Who knows. The NOPD (another story) does not release its investigation files, even bare bones numbers and basic details. We know the NOPD protects its own, but maybe not where the RTA is involved and maybe not where racial innuendo gets involved. There's more than one dog in that fight.

We need investigators. Who knows how many lives could have been saved (maybe just one?) by having just one more investigator who could have put away just one repeat offender a little bit sooner (if at all).

Just the other side of the coin.

Clay said...

You're never going to agree with someone else 100%, but I've been so damn glad Cannizzaro won. I voted for Capitelli, but I'm glad he lost.

His plan for getting more investigators, pressuring NOPD to actually write up reports (legibly, occasionally), and go after cold case murders has a chance to put a dent in the murder rate. Our murderers, in general, are repeat offenders that only end their killing streak when they meet "street justice" (they get murdered, adding to the statistics and fueling the cycle of violence). Concentrating on cold cases isn't going to be as politically popular as "fire fighting," but I think it will have better results in the long haul.

Clay said...

I'd also like to add that the DA is desperate for investigators, especially those with experience that could start producing right away. If I were in Cannizzaro's shoes, I'd find it hard to turn down an experienced hand like Lapene.

So far, Cannizzaro (unlike Riley) has earned enough trust to be given the benefit of the doubt on his occasional mis-steps.

E said...

Yeah I don't want my critique of Cannizzaro as it relates to this hire to make it seem like I'm totally dissatisfied with his work thus far. I actually think he's made some really important changes. Eddie Jordan was an absolute disaster and I'm happy to see things improve to the degree they have and am willing to give credit to Cannizzaro and also to Landrum-Johnson for their work stabilizing the office. He did indeed deserve the flack he caught for hiring this Lapene guy. The need to hire investigators is real but that doesn't mean you go out and hire your daughter's boyfriend's friend who got fired from the police force for his role in a possibly racially charged brawl. That's a bad decision.

Anonymous said...

from anon one:
I can't believe how racist people are on this blog--defending Lapene? That's who you think would render justice for blacks? You've come to hate the black political class so much that you have dehumanized all black people. Lapene was not a mistake, he was a reflection of the racism in the D.A.'s office. Only in New Orleans could someone with his record make it into the D.A.'s office, and WBOK, not the blogoshpere, forced him out--thank god.

There were several witnesses to Lapene's use of racial slurs and as E. offers, it's hard to imagine what he did and said to get fired. And yes, do please "connect the dots" on WBOK because they are going to be running the city after the 2010 elections because white bigots on this blog give blacks the impression that all white people in New Orleans are insensitive bigots. I suggest you tune in every day and hear the consequences of your cheer leading for racial insensitivity. Some on WBOK support Riley for one and only one reason--he told Stacy Head to go to hell. That's what you get when you make people think that their rights are under fire: they support the candidate who think will "stick it to the other group"--not the best candidate. The "greenspace plan" got us Ray Nagin and crap like supporting Lapene will get us Ray Nagin 2.
As the white power folks say, "Wake up White Man!"

E said...

Is it true that Winn was Lapene's commander in the NOPD and that Winn was at the bar the night of the fight?

Was Lapene in Winn's squad when they went to the Convention Center?

Anonymous said...

who know. Hans Ganthier is the only one named at the convention center. Note that the cops who killed glover in Aliers were members of the swat team and Winn said in an interview that his swat team was in Algiers and got fired on from the projects. All those cops in Algiers are accessories to murder if they knew what happened. The question is, will white jurors even in a federal trial, convict a white cop?