I got this update from Baty Landis via e-mail. She’s on the task force assigned by the incoming mayor to find a new police chief. I respect Baty’s efforts on this front; she is made of sterner stuff than I. What she reports is cause for concern for all New Orleanians.
NOPD Task Force update 3
April 2, 2010
Dear SilenceIsViolence readers,
It’s been a challenging week for the NOPD Task Force. One member of the Task Force, Danatus King of the NAACP, has stepped down over discomfort with the police chief selection process. Additional Task Force members, including myself, have continued to raise concerns about the transparency of the process. Mayor-Elect Landrieu acknowledged that he was asking us to take on a difficult responsibility when he first convened the Task Force. To find and recommend 3-4 excellent prospects for Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department in under three months is ambitious, to say the least. Many of the challenges facing the Task Force are a function of the delicacy involved in balancing a rushed process with a thorough one.
By way of an update this week, I can offer some of my concerns about this search process, and one overriding hope. The hopeful point in this: Every member the NOPD Task Force is clearly dedicated to help find the strongest possible police chief for New Orleans.
My main concerns are:
Spotty internal communications. An unfortunate dearth of internal updates and notices as steps in the search process have been considered, decided upon, and implemented has led to expressed feelings of disengagement on the part of some Task Force members, including myself. Meeting to meeting, there are differing understandings among Task Force members of what has been discussed and settled upon. And with no written documentation of these meetings available to us, valuable time has been spent re-tracing conversations to sort out what was actually said and decided.
Lack of access to search materials and participants. The search firm International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) was contracted by the Transition team to undertake much of the groundwork, management, and assessment of the search. Indeed, the first cut of applicants will take place entirely at the discretion of this international organization, with no accountability to members of the Task Force regarding the basis for selecting semi-finalists. While the IACP’s expertise and professionalism are well established, they do not have a track record of finding law enforcement leaders suitable to New Orleans specifically. I am far from convinced, for instance, that a sensitive strategy to dealing with locally specific cultural practices, which many of you have voiced as a particular concern, has any place in IACP’s assessment tools. I have tried to contact the IACP personally, to inquire to what degree the public input we sought from you some weeks ago is being put to use in their assessments. To date, I have not heard back from them.
Timeline. An incredibly short timeline for this entire process has demanded a rush to judgment regarding many steps in the process. Mr. Landrieu had expressed the hope that the Task Force would research several search firms before selecting one, but this was not able to happen, and the IACP was contracted without discussion by the full Task Force. The first public meeting was held with very little notice, and a survey seeking public input was only very briefly available. Scheduling a second public meeting, as pledged by the Mayor-Elect, is on hold. We have not had time to consider thoroughly many concerns raised by Task Force members (this has been compounded by the lack of documentation of prior discussions).
Mayor-Elect Landrieu brought this NOPD Task Force together to ensure that as many perspectives as possible would be at the table as a new Superintendent was sought. It is hardly surprising that this open approach to such a crucially important decision has resulted in some disagreements and conflicting views. Indeed, it would be an aberration, and probably disingenuous, if we were to all feel the same way about the wide range of considerations that must come into play during such a search. My underlying concern with the NOPD Task Force to date is not that I disagree with some decisions, but that our perspectives and talents are not being productively utilized and implemented into the review and selection process.
It begins to seem ironic that so much attention has been focused on the need for transparency and accountability in the new NOPD management structure. Mayor-Elect Landrieu set the tone for this expectation by launching a police chief selection process that would itself be accountable to a broad range of community voices. I hope to have good news in next week’s update about improved engagement of all of these voices: Everybody wants this to be a successful beginning to a newly and equitably safe era in New Orleans. In the meantime, please send me your feedback, which continues to guide my involvement in the process.
Update: No sooner do I post Baty’s missive than I learn, boom, she’s been removed from the task force.
One member removed from task force seeking New Orleans’ new police chief
By Bruce Eggler, The Times-Picayune
April 03, 2010, 8:08PM
Baty Landis, a founder of the anti-crime group Silence Is Violence, was removed Saturday from the task force created by Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu to recommend candidates for New Orleans’ next police chief.
The action came after Landis posted a message on her group’s Web site critical of the way the search is being conducted.
Landis cited a lack of transparency in the search process, “spotty internal communications,” “an incredibly short timeline” and the fact that the International Association of Chiefs of Police will make “the first cut of applicants” on its own, “with no accountability to members of the task force.”
On Saturday evening, Todd Ragusa, communications director for the Landrieu transition team, released a message sent to task force members by co-chairmen Nolan Rollins and Norman Francis saying they had decided that “Baty Landis’ interest can be better served as an external stakeholder and community member.”
In addition, they said, task force member Gina Womack, co-director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, “has informed us that she no longer intends to serve.”
On Monday, Danatus King, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, also resigned from the group in protest. King said the citizens panel should be allowed to see all the applications, not just those passed on by national law enforcement groups, so residents can be assured that its work is not “window dressing” for the selection of a preordained candidate.
Landrieu announced formation of the task force of more than 20 public-safety officials and community leaders on Feb. 22, saying he wanted it to scour the nation for the best possible leader for the NOPD. He said he wanted it to recommend three finalists to him in time for him to make the final selection by the time he takes office May 3.
Landrieu said selecting the police chief was the most important decision facing him.
In her message on her Web site, Landis acknowledged the “expertise and professionalism” of the police chiefs association but said it does “not have a track record of finding law enforcement leaders suitable to New Orleans specifically. I am far from convinced, for instance, that a sensitive strategy to dealing with locally specific cultural practices … has any place in IACP’s assessment tools.”
She also said the short timeline for the search “has demanded a rush to judgment regarding many steps in the process. … The IACP was contracted without discussion by the full task force” and “a survey seeking public input was only very briefly available.”
In their statement, Rollins and Francis said they “have acted with complete transparency” but “are providing confidentiality to applicants in the early phase of the process” to ensure they get “the largest possible applicant pool.”
They said the task force has “accomplished a lot in our first month, and we must maintain our pace throughout April. … This mission calls for us to act judiciously and expeditiously. We are confident we can continue to do both.”
Bruce Eggler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3320.
Update: Another letter, from Baty Landis and also Norris Henderson and Gina Womack.
April 5, 2010
It is with deep regret, and only after many attempts to help rescue the credibility of the NOPD Superintendent Task Force, that each of us has determined we must communicate our grave concerns about the process to our constituencies. This conclusion has meant that we are no longer able to serve on the Task Force, whether we have stepped down or have been removed by Task Force leadership.
In either case, we have determined that our input is not desired to the extent we were led to believe, and that we can better serve our communities as external observers of the process, with freedom to comment on proceedings without reservation.
Everyone wants—and needs—this search to succeed, to result in a strong and effective new police chief for New Orleans. Ultimately, Mayor-Elect Landrieu alone bears the solemn responsibility of finding a police chief who will bring equitable public safety to our city. It is Mr. Landrieu who must answer to his decision, win or lose, and we respect his right to choose the person he sees fit. At this time, it seems that further community input is neither desired nor needed as part of the actual decision-making process; the Transition team has called for a halt to further internal comment on the search process. So it falls to us to hold the process accountable to the community’s concerns as outside observers.
We hope that the transition effort, and the new administration once Mr. Landrieu is inaugurated, will work in the future to ensure that when the community’s voices is called upon, our full voices are heard, respected, and made productive use of. We are available as casual consultants when that is required; but we do not expect to have our names and credibility attached to decisions that we have only very restricted input on.
Briefly put: The police chief search process is in turmoil. As far as specific concerns about the search, we each have a slightly different focus, as representatives of overlapping but different constituencies. Yet some points of concern we hold in common include:
1. The public survey administered in early March was not the survey drafted by Task Force members during our meetings. We were not given an opportunity to review the survey before it was released, nor even provided with the survey at the same time as the media.
2. After considerable effort soliciting and listening to public input, we have no assurance that this input will play a role in assessing initial applicants.
3. Suggestions made by Task Force members throughout this process have been for the most part either denied or ignored entirely.
Task Force requests that to this day have not received any response include:
*Access to Task Force meeting minutes
*A productive solution to the second public meeting of this Task Force, as promised by Mr. Landrieu
*Availability of the IACP contract for general Task Force review (this, incidentally, could have saved valuable time spent debating points that were apparently decided by IACP contractual stipulations long ago)
*Regular email updates to Task Force members, alerting us to progress and decisions made impacting the search.
Task Force requests that have been denied include:
*Opening Executive Committee proceedings, during which most decisions are made, to additional Task Force members by request or invitation, in order to ensure that the Executive Committee reflects the community as broadly as possible
*Access to the list of attributes forming the initial candidate assessment matrix, to be used by the IACP for the first cut of applicants
*Access to the full applicant pool by a small team of Task Force members
*More frequent meetings
*Additional time for the entire process.
What we have been asked to do is solicit input from our communities (this is accomplished) and submit suggested interview questions for finalists (this can be done without our presence on the Task Force). Initially, Mayor-Elect Landrieu also asked us to deliberate on which search firm to hire, and in general to actively develop a process representative of all our voices. However, these discussions did not take place within the full Task Force, but were presented to us after decisions had been made and contracts signed.
We sincerely hope that, in spite of flaws that have prohibited our continued participation as Task Force members, the remaining body can help the Mayor-Elect to find a police chief who will serve all communities. We urge remaining members to take the time and care required to accomplish this, for the sake of us all.
In particular, we call upon Mayor-Elect Landrieu to reclaim direct management of the search for a new police chief; to re-focus this chaotic and deeply imperiled process; and to live up to the community accountability he has promised in this most important of his decisions as our new Mayor.
Norris Henderson, V.O.T.E. NOLA
Gina Womack, Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children
Baty Landis, SilenceIsViolence