By Newell Normand | WWL.com | January 2, 2020
With 2019 now firmly in the rear-view mirror, Newell invited Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche into the studio Thursday morning to discuss the most important trends in crime-fighting over the last year, and what’s on the horizon as we move into 2020.
“Y’all had a busy year!” Newell began. “Y’all don’t have many years when you’re not busy.”
“No, we’re recession-proof,” Goyeneche said. “There’s always a demand… I wish we were less busy, but it is what it is. As distasteful as some of the headlines dealing with crime and corruption are, the benefits of what we’re seeing right now from a local criminal justice perspective, the City of New Orleans is in better shape than I’ve seen in the last 15 or 20 years. The work we do in combating corruption and encouraging the public to report corruption, we’re starting to see more of those tips being acted upon and we’re seeing more corruption investigations and prosecutions starting to emerge publicly. I attribute that in large part to the great working relationship between the US Attorney’s office and the FBI. I talk to people all the time about how tired they are about reading about and seeing corruption, but what I say is that if we aren’t reading about it, it doesn’t mean officials aren’t being dishonest – it means they’re getting away with it. Every one of those arrests and prosecutions is a reminder that if you report it, something can and will be done about it, and those officials will be held accountable.”
“As much as you guys keep your finger on the pulse on the courts, and the information you receive that you pass on to law enforcement, you also keep track of what’s happening with crime throughout the metropolitan area,” Newell said. “The city has announced the murder rate is down for the third year in a row, not unlike a lot of other major cities in the country. But the one thing you find that’s common to almost all of these places is that shootings are up. Sometimes I wonder whether modern medicine is playing a role in this as much as anything else. Your thoughts?”
“Obviously, if someone’s going to shoot someone, this isn’t the Old Western movies we watched growing up where they’re trying to knick ‘em in the arm – they’re trying to kill them, and they miss. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that I’ll take it any way we can get it, if someone’s a poor shot. But I also think the police department deserves credit too. Make no mistake, this is a different department than it was 20 years ago, and I think that the reforms we began to see under Richard Pennington that didn’t take root to the extent that they could, I think the consent decree forced the department to totally reassess itself, and we’re starting to see that now.. but we’re not going to know if these changes are going to be permanent until the consent decree is gone.”
“Crime is down in Jefferson Parish, looks like it’s down in St Tammany as well… looks like the trend is the same. What do you think is going to be law enforcement’s biggest challenges coming up?”
“Crime is like the stock market,” Goyeneche answered. “It never just moves in one direction, it’s all over. For every action, there’s a reaction… law enforcement can’t continue to do things the way they’ve always done them, they have to be able to anticipate and respond to changes. I think that’s one of the things we’ve seen that JPSO is known for, and many of the other regional Sheriff’s offices are at the same point. If New Orleans is doing a better job of addressing its crime problems, the entire region will benefit form that. The biggest challenge I see is continuing to find qualified people. There’s a national trend where law enforcement in too many circles, there’s an outspoken minority that use law enforcement as the bad guys and the narrative is that the offenders are the victims of an unjust system and the bad guys are the criminal justice officials, and the public’s rights are forgotten. Plus, law enforcement now is competing with the private sector for people that have college degrees, and those people are deciding if they want to risk their lives in a job that pays no more than they can earn in the private sector, and all the time be viewed as the enemy. That’s being felt nationally and here too.”
“I would agree, the villainization of law enforcement is the biggest threat for law enforcement organizations throughout the country,” Newell concluded.