November 19, 2007

Rough Drafts and Parallel Paralysis

In the continuing, ironic litany of parallels between the city government's handling of its crisis condition and the federal government's own methods of deadly mismanagement, we find this story in the Sunday Times-Pic.

After admirably opening it's doors and officers to an outside review, the NOPD put out a severely edited, positivist version of the review for the public to, I don't know, blindfold ourselves with or something. Worse, it's not apparent what steps the NOPD will take as a result of the report, short of denial and sticking to plan. Seems familiar to me.
The draft detailed in the newspaper includes these observations:
-According to NOPD officials, "Police technicians in Records are minimum wage employees and are leaving for better-paying jobs and working conditions in the fast-food industry."
-'"The Department is devoting time and resources to recruits who are grossly inadequate in sentence structure, grammar and spelling," the officers wrote. Training officers reported that they worried about the motivation of many recruits and felt that some applicants are signing up to join the NOPD "simply because of the need for a job or benefits."'
-'"Zero tolerance practices leads to multiple arrests, causing citizens to further distrust the police," officers wrote. They recommended a focus on quality of arrests over quantity.'
-'Trailers double as offices. The crime lab lacks key equipment and certification. Evidence storage is in peril, crowded among trailers. The records division, whose employees share desks, splits minuscule office space with the city's taxicab personnel and some city computer programmers.'

Most of this is fodder for the NOPD's request for more money. With the current crime situation, who can argue with them? Even better, in making the request, Reilly details some of the problems listed in the draft report as reasons for the add'l funding.

Word. I'm for getting them more money, I'm very much for a new crime lab, and more staffing in social services-type support. What I don't see as helpful or farsighted is the need to deny all criticism, to squash a report that in fact assists your cause, and the refusal for imaginative solutions and self-inspection (Yes, I know they're cops). Zero tolerance makes some homeowners and business people feel better, and it sure did great in Manhattan and even in the old N.O., but isn't it possibly outdated in the wake of a disaster? Isn't it heavy-handed in a time of deep distrust? Does it help to solve the whole stop-snitchin plague?

As far as the phenomenon of parallels I mentioned, I think we all understand a disaster that leads to an ongoing, ugly problem (the decision for war in Iraq-the occupation/Katrina-murderous crime wave), the need for a solution (war funding/cop funding), and the persistent feeling that we're throwing good money after bad when those who administer it (the feds/the city) are proven fuck-ups who snub their noses at outside ideas (the Iraq Study Group/the BGI Draft) and continue to offer us spit-shined bullshit (take your pick/take your pick).

Let's be honest, let's talk as citizens, as sufferers, as passengers in the same boat. Don't lie to us and give us candy while we stand atop landmines. And don't pretend you know better when we all know each other way too well for that kind of bluff.

"If you use drugs, buy drugs, you are going to die in this city," he said to a wide-eyed group of middle-age men and women. "You are going to get your butts shot off," he added with dramatic pause. "But otherwise, you have nothing to worry about."

I see you John Bryson. I see you, post-apocalypse PT Barnum of law-enforcement and tourist caressing. Get your mind right, man!)