New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist James Gill assails Police Chief Ronal Serpas’ policy of including rap sheet details of any homicide victim who had one. The aim, Serpas says, is to give the public “a broader perspective of events.” Says Gill: “A broader perspective means understanding that it’s your own damn fault if you get shot around here.” It turns out that 64 percent of victims do have a record. To imply that a victim had it coming, as Serpas’ policy appears to do, is a sentiment more appropriate to a mafia don than a police chief, Gill charges.
It can’t be true, the columnist maintains, that 128 people deserved to have their names dragged through the mud last year before their deaths had even been investigated. Many of them had not even been convicted; a lousy arrest, even an ancient one, is enough to warrant a posthumous slur from the police department. Certainly, as Serpas pointed out, “criminal records predict victimization,” and the stats do not mean New Orleans is dangerous for the law-abiding. “I don’t think arrests are irrelevant,” Serpas says. Serpas knows, although he might not admit it, that young black men are often hauled off on a flimsy pretext, Gill says.