Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shots on the Bridge

The New Orleans police department has long had the reputation of being one of the most corrupt in the United States.  If it is not actually the most corrupt department in the country, in the minds of most observers it is certainly always in the running for that title.  And in the wake of what happened on the Danziger Bridge six days after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005, the NOPD proved that in their case public perception was fact because, sadly enough, the NOPD turned out to be a clear extension of the overall political corruption and ineptness that describes the history of New Orleans city government.

Hurricane Katrina struck a city without a clue.  Both the city's mayor and its police chief failed the city terribly by not having a solid plan in place for the aftermath of the hurricane.  In fact, as Ronnie Greene points out in Shots on the Bridge, those providing emergency services to the citizens of New Orleans after the storm were left largely on their own.  And this seems particularly true of a police department that failed to set up even a central meeting place/control point from which to coordinate its efforts to control crime during what turned out to be perhaps the most chaotic period in the city’s history.

The Danziger Bridge, only seven-tenths of a mile long, allows access between two New Orleans neighborhoods separated by the city’s Industrial Canal.  And going from one neighborhood to another is all that each of the victims of the police slaughter were doing on the morning they were unfortunate enough to cross paths with a bunch of adrenalin-fueled cops who completely misread the situation on the bridge.  The policemen believed that they were responding to a scene where an unknown number of snipers had shot at least one of their own.  They were anxious to get to the bridge before more policemen could be killed or injured – and when they got there they exited their vehicles with guns blazing.

Ronnie Greene
Before the gunfire ended (and it did not end even when all the victims were helpless and on the ground), six people, traveling in opposite directions in two distinct groups, had been shot.  Two of them were dead: a middle-aged mentally challenged man who was chased off the bridge and killed while trying to understand what was happening around him, and a seventeen-year-old boy whose body was chewed up by the number of wounds it sustained.  One woman, whose arm was literally shot off, saw her daughter shot in the stomach and her husband suffer severe shrapnel-related head wounds.  All the victims were black and none of them had a weapon of any type on them.  Some of the cops were white; some were black.


Then the cover-up began, and the NOPD lived up to its embarrassing reputation as being one of the most corrupt police departments anywhere.  Read Ronnie Greene’s Shots on the Bridge for the rest of this tragic story – especially the way it was so consistently mishandled in the court system.  We can only hope that someone in the city of New Orleans learned something from the mistakes made in this case – and is now in a position to help ensure that nothing like this ever again happens there.

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