Amid mounting criticism, the New Orleans Police Department has reversed its year-old policy of publicizing the arrest histories of murder victims, reports the city’s Times-Picayune. The department said it will instead give an overview each month on the criminal records of those killed without naming the victims. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who had been steadfast in his defense of the policy, wrote in a prepared statement that he made the change after “consulting privately with local clergy leaders over the last weeks.”
“I believe it is necessary to share with the community the obvious and direct link between criminal behavior and the horrible acts of murder in our city,” Serpas wrote. “I have always said, however, that there are very good arguments to share and not share this public information.” The shift comes amid growing criticism from citizens, city leaders and at least one state lawmaker. These critics have called the policy graceless and shortsighted, portraying it as a political move to calm the nerves of crime-weary residents. They also claimed it cast wide blame on victims before the facts were even known and that it compounded the grief of bereaved families when arrests, from as minor as a curfew violation to as major as a murder arrest, were publicized.