Posted by: Pronola on Aug 6, 2009
NOTE: The title of this blog has nothing to do with the contents of the post. It is in response to recent comments on recent blog posts which seem to indicate that I am trying to put forward more than personal opinion based on facts I have gathered. It is a blog. It is my thoughts. Period. So I thought I would make it very clear today.
Now, on to the matter at hand: JUDGES NEED TO RECOGNIZE THEIR RESPONSIBILITY
Progress is rarely a straight line. It certainly isn’t going to be a straight line as we work to get a handle on the crime situation.
We have to accept that even if the Police Superintendant were wonderful, the processes were leading practices and if we had an overabundance of officers, we would still face the issues of the Orleans Parish jail and court system.
This is most obvious to scanner listeners if they listen for the 17F and 17M mark-ups on car stops and suspicious person calls. As you listen you hear myriads of requests for dispatch to provide patrol units with 17F items or 17M items. You then immediately hear “and under that item carry me to CLU X amount of times” with X being the number being transported to the jail.
A 17F item is a fugitive attachment, meaning someone should have shown up in court and didn’t, probably several times, and the court issued a fugitive warrant for them. This also means they are already suspects in a crime, and taking advantage of the bail system to remain free.
How frustrating it must be to patrol officers to arrest, re-arrest and arrest yet again suspected criminals who either know how to work the system to their advantage, or who have public defenders who do it for them. And how much time do the repeated arrests of the same people cost in terms of crimes left with no officers to respond because they are either transporting or processing a fugitive at the jail?
The answer is a lot! For one day, I listened specifically for 17F items over both scanners. I’ll admit I stopped recording them when I hit 47 and it was only 3 p.m.! And for each of those 17F items requested, there was at least one transport to CLU. So without any apprehensions from crimes in progress, the patrol officers were tied up sitting at CLU waiting for intake to move through its snail-paced process and take control of the fugitive.
I won’t even get into the 17M (Municipal attachments) or 17T (Traffic attachments) that are heard heading to CLU daily.
We obviously have a lot of people who thumb their noses at the judicial system, possibly with good reason. You get arrested; you get a low bail set; you get out; you disappear into the streets of the city, again. Somehow your luck runs out and a patrol unit happens upon you either through a traffic stop or because you don’t move from your loitering location fast enough. You get arrested again; you get a low bail set; you get out; you disappear into the streets of the city, again. How many times will a judge allow you to do this? Good question that I’m not sure has a definitive answer.
But it is an answer that is important not only to the patrol units who see the same faces and the same rap sheets time after time, but also to the citizens who run the risk of one of these fugitives either repeating a violent crime, or escalating from a non-violent to a violent level.
Somewhere there has to be a limit. The limit has to be imposed at the court level. The NOPD officers are doing their part – the criminal gets arrested and charged, several times. So how do we get the court system to comply?
WE VOTE! And we make sure we know what and who we are voting for! When the judges are seated we up the visibility of their actions. We find a way to consistently and constantly keep their actions in view of the public. I haven’t figured out how to do this, especially in the face of apathetic citizens who would rather sit back and complain about the pace of change rather than participate in it. It isn’t going to happen magically. The judges are not going to record their actions for us.
But if we don’t get some action in the court system, it won’t matter who the next Police Superintendent is, how big the NOPD budget is, how many good officers patrol the streets, how detailed the reports are. If the defendant can’t be found, the DA can’t prosecute.
It starts with our judges understanding and caring about the part they play in perpetuating our crime problem. They need to realize they shoulder a large part of the blame for repeat offenders. And then they need to do something about it – for the good of the city, if not their own political career.