Lee Brown, a former Houston mayor who also was police chief of Houston, Atlanta and New York, is on the way to help rescue New Orleans from its vicious crime problem. Unlike that other Mr. Brown who worked for the U.S. Government, this Mr. Brown is experienced. He’s written the book on community policing. Well, actually, he was supposed to write it when he was the scholar-in-residence at Rice University but he just couldn’t manage to get it done. "It’s long overdue," Brown said. "I would not give you a deadline. I’ve passed all the past deadlines."
Okay, so come on down to New Orleans and help us with our crime problem. I’m sure these are the perfect conditions for you to overcome that pesky writer’s block. Fellow blawger and longtime Houston resident, Tom Kirkendall, is speechless and asks "does New Orleans really need this?" Probably not, but our local leaders don’t know seem to know what we need.
What do we need?
First, we need to reassess from top-to-bottom how we deal with crime, from prevention to prosecution. Community policing makes sense, and maybe we need some guidance on how to implement this. But I’m suspicious about whether Lee Brown is the right guy (how much is he going to charge us for his services?)
What about the problems we have with prosecuting serious crimes? I recently had lunch with a friend of mine who is a prosecutor, someone I know to be a conscientious lawyer. He echoed something I’ve heard from many other lawyers who do criminal law: the way that our D.A.’s office prepares cases is seriously deficient. In most other cities, so I’m told, when there’s a serious crime an assistant D.A. is sent to the crime scene to help coordinate the gathering of evidence. That same D.A. is then primarily responsible for the case as it moves through the system. Obviously this is the optimal way to prepare cases. So why doesn’t New Orleans do this? According to my friend, it is because a long time ago D.A. Harry Connick decided that having D.A.s at crime scenes might impair their immunity.
Is this really the best way and is that story about Harry Connick true? I don’t know. And I’ve certainly never been asked to write any books about crime-fighting, and I’m not a scholar-in-residence anywhere. Still, I get this sense that our leading crime-fighters, scholarly and unscholarly, are not coming up with any effective solutions.