Chief Ronal Serpas: Keep Your Promise & Release Your Draft LGBTQ Policy to BreakOUT!
Over a year ago, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) first made a promise to BreakOUT! to meet with them before finalizing an LGBTQ policy in the NOPD. In an October 2012 City Council meeting, NOPD representatives again promised to meet with BreakOUT! before finalizing a policy. BreakOUT! also submitted their own model LGBTQ policy for the NOPD's consideration on this date. While New Orleans desperately needs an LGBTQ policy in the NOPD sooner rather than later, we want to ensure an LGBTQ policy is written with community input and is an effective policy based on best practices and the direct experiences of criminalized LGBTQ youth. The NOPD should keep its promise to BreakOUT! and show a true commitment to reforming the police department with actual community engagement and input, rather than pushing a policy through at the last minute.
- Superintendent New Orleans Police Department
Chief Ronal Serpas
- City of New Orleans
Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Representatives from the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) committed in a public meeting in City Council Chambers on October 17, 2012 to meet with BreakOUT! members prior to adopting an LGBTQ policy in the NOPD. This was after Councilmembers, LGBTQ community representatives, the Independent Police Monitor, and others from the public heard testimony from African American transgender young women and other LGBTQ community members about brutality and discriminatory practices they experienced at the hands of the NOPD. At this meeting, BreakOUT! offered your Department a policy written and developed by our members themselves that is based on best practices and in alignment with the Consent Decree you negotiated with the Department of Justice. They then mailed you a copy of the policy and also emailed it to your attention again a month later, on November 15, 2012.
They were notified on December 3, 2012 that an LGBTQ policy was in its final stages in the NOPD and that once it was finalized, a meeting would be scheduled with them for review. They still have not heard back from your Department.
The hearing in October did not mark the beginning of this process- they have been in direct communication with your Department for over a year about adopting a model LGBTQ policy with local community input.
In fact, on October 21, 2011 BreakOUT! brought language from a Peoples’ Consent Decree that they helped draft, along with some key recommendations for reform that community members developed in a meeting with the Department of Justice to representatives from your Training Academy and policy department. BreakOUT! also spoke about the experiences and complaints many of their members have had with your Department and told you of their commitment to help improve relationships with the LGBTQ community, specifically their membership base of young Black transgender women. They also discussed the possibility of their members developing a video for use in your officer trainings.
Then on November 17, 2011, they emailed you copies of law enforcement policies from other jurisdictions.
On December 5, 2011, BreakOUT! met with Stephanie Landry, Jean Jordan, Ernest Demma, and Bernell Nevil from the NOPD and reviewed the policies from other jurisdictions, which included policies from New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, and again shared stories of their members who had complaints with the NOPD. Representatives from the NOPD, including Jean Jordan in charge of writing policy, told them they would be back in touch with a draft for BreakOUT! members to review in a short while. At this meeting, they were encouraged to develop a video for use in officer trainings.
On January 17, 2012 BreakOUT! delivered “We Deserve Better” to you, a video of LGBTQ young people in New Orleans sharing their experiences with the NOPD and recommendations for reform. Less than one week later, the video was shown in your in-service officer trainings and promised to be shown for the next 41 weeks. They later discovered that the video is not consistently being shown to officers, despite the commitment made by your Department.
On March 26, 2012 they brought LGBTQ policing expert, Andrea Ritchie, to meet with representatives from your Department to discuss the policies being developed in New York City so that they could ask questions about the process, implementation, and other concerns or questions they may have about the policies. At this meeting, BreakOUT! asked for a timeline by which they could expect a draft.
Throughout this time they were also communicating with the Department of Justice, who validated their concerns and echoed many of their recommendations with language in the proposed Consent Decree that was developed in July 2012. They filed comments to the Judge from members in August 2012 and then submitted a declaration in support of the Consent Decree in September 2012, applauding many of the LGBTQ provisions.
During this time, they also began to work on their own proposed policy for your Department, written by their members themselves and based on best practices from around the country as well as their members’ own experiences with the NOPD.
On October 24, 2012, they presented in front of the City Council Criminal Justice Subcommittee, and were the only items on the agenda for that day. At this hearing, they shared a statement by BreakOUT!, testimony from Black young transgender women with experiences with the NOPD, and submitted their proposed LGBTQ policy to your Department, specifically Jean Jordan and Otha Sandifer, and representatives from City Council. Over 50 individuals and organizations came to support BreakOUT! and many offered public testimony in support of their policy. Later that day, they emailed an electronic copy of their proposed policy to representatives who attended the meeting. Although you did not attend the meeting, BreakOUT! ensured you also got the information and model policy for your reference and emailed it again on November 15, 2012.
We now understand that your Department plans to have an LGBTQ policy in place before Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl, which is just a couple of weeks away. While our City desperately needs an LGBTQ policy in the NOPD sooner rather than later, we want to ensure it is written with community input and is an effective policy based on best practices and the direct experiences of BreakOUT! members. Further, we want the NOPD to keep its promise to BreakOUT! and show a true commitment to reforming the NOPD with actual community engagement and input, rather than pushing a policy through at the last minute.
We write to tell you to send BreakOUT! your draft policy immediately, schedule a meeting with BreakOUT! members to review the draft policy, and follow through on your commitment to negotiating a policy with them so that we can assure that reforms will be effective and truly increase the safety of LGBTQ youth and our entire New Orleans community.
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