Although New Orleans has always been known as an exciting and vibrant cultural center in the deep South, the reputation of its political and governmental institutions has been less sterling. The schools weren’t educating children, the police (in New Orleans especially) weren’t protecting the people, and, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, state, city and federal officials were failing to fulfill their most basic duties to protect citizens and property from harm.But the past few years have witnessed something of a rebirth of reform. Schools in New Orleans are under completely new management, and the state has adopting a sweeping program of education reform that is among the most forward-thinking in the country. The flood control and hurricane protection system has been thoroughly revamped, reducing the risks that the next Category 5 monster storm will wreak devastation on the same scale as Katrina.And now NOLA’s notoriously crooked and incompetent police force is going to get the sustained scrutiny and attention it has needed for a generation. The New York Times reports that the city police department is teaming up with the Department of Justice to conduct a major reform of the police force. In particular, the plan will increase public oversight over the actions of the force in sensitive situations to weed out the rampant abuse and corruption:
The 122-page agreement, known as a consent decree, states that “the ability of a police department to protect the community it serves is only as strong as the relationship it has with that community.” It calls for hundreds of new department policies governing the use of force, searches and seizures, arrests, interrogations, photographic lineups and more.The agreement also deals with recruitment and training, performance evaluations and promotions, misconduct-complaint issues and even the lucrative off-duty work assignments that had become a potent source of corruption.
The city’s problems are deep seated. There will be no quick fixes. But the city government and the Louisiana state government, sobered perhaps by realizing just how close they came to stumbling over the abyss, are trying harder to change than at any time in living memory.What’s more, this change is bipartisan. Some of the energy comes from the Dems, some from the GOP. Blacks, whites and immigrants from Mexico, the Caribbean and beyond are all involved.Without a vibrant and rich New Orleans and Louisianas, this country isn’t what it can and should be. Let’s wish them well, and do our best to support the change.Via Meadia suggestion: It’s very nice how many volunteers from aournd the country have come over the years to help rebuild, but it’s time now for the rest of us to rally around and do something REALLY effective: visit as tourists and spend some money.