Malaka Of The Week: Newell Normand

Newell Normand is the Sheriff of suburban Jefferson Parish right next door to New Orleans. It’s a very powerful elected position with tentacles that reach into other areas of Jefferson Parish politics. Normand’s predecessor and mentor Harry Lee had an outsized personality and was known to pop his cork in public on a regular basis. In contrast, Normand has presented himself as a professional, temperate law man and has maintained an even keel in public. It’s getting harder and harder for Normand to maintain that calm facade given all the police involved shootings in Jefefrson thus far in 2015. Yesterday, Sheriff Normand lost his shit at a press conference and that is why he is malaka of the week.

The local MSM *loves* JPSO pressers even though Normand is not as entertaining as Harry Lee. Normand was full of misguided fire and passion that reflected the insularity and self-absorption typical of many in law enforcement:

 At a news conference called to defend his agency’s fourth officer-involved shooting of the year, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand on Wednesday warned his constituents to “wake up” and chastised a West Bank community for residents’ failure to report drug dealing — a scourge he said threatens innocent lives — to the Sheriff’s Office.

Screaming at points during an impassioned address, Normand vented about an array of topics, denouncing efforts to legalize marijuana possession — “We are collectively stupid” — while defending his deputies’ decision to unleash dozens of bullets upon Desmond Willis, a man who allegedly opened fire on authorities Monday after fleeing a traffic stop.

Red-faced and gesticulating, Normand pointed a contemptuous finger at residents of the Pebble Walk and Kensington Gardens community in Harvey, several of whom, he said, told deputies after the shooting that they recognized Willis as a drug dealer and that he “did not belong in our neighborhood.”

“We knew what he was doing,” they said, according to Normand, “and he shouldn’t have been here.”

Normand said Willis, 25, was a drug dealer who plied his trade often enough in the neighborhood that his pickup became recognizable.

Fear of retaliation, he declared, is no excuse for not picking up the telephone.

“If you know this is going on, call 911 and tell them you want to remain anonymous,” Normand said. “Give us the information, so that we can get in there and be intrusive and shake it up and get these guys before they get you, because your life matters. Act like it.”

He added, “Wake up! If you know what’s going on in your neighborhoods, call the Sheriff’s Office and let us know. … Have we lost any sense of altruism, of what’s going on in the streets?”

I have some different questions for Normand. Have you been paying any attention to the news? Did you hear about the white North Charleston, SC cop who shot a black man in the back after a traffic stop? Have you seen the video that shows the crime and the officer planting a taser next to the man’s body? The citizen who shot the video was afraid that his life might be in danger if he came forward. Who do you think he was afraid of, Sheriff Normand?

The advent of the smart phone has changed a lot of things in our society, many of which are trivial. The fact that the actions of the police can now be filmed by anyone is a game changer.  We’re learning the extent of police misconduct in our country and it’s not a pretty picture. Am I surprised? No, but it’s still disheartening.

In my past life as an Uptown New Orleans neighborhood leader, I worked closely with our then District police Commander who is a good and decent man. Despite some serious crime issues, officer involved shootings were rare under his watch. They knew their commander was watching and took a dim view of gunfire. The cops in our district were not involved in the post-K abuses but the Danziger Bridge case and other atrocities still resonate in New Orleans with every officer involved shooting. I would *prefer* to trust the police in these matters but I cannot.

I wrote about my background to establish that I am not reflexively anti-law enforcement. But Jefferson Parish and other forces have “shoot to kill” policies, which inevitably result in one-sided stories. Dead men tell no tales, after all. After the recent spate of high profile police shootings, it has become impossible to believe the cops even when the shootings may be justified. There’s always an Officer Slager with a drop piece to frame someone.

Back to Sheriff Normand. Ranting, raving and getting all red faced with rage might make him feel better, but it does nothing to encourage public trust. Black folks have very little reason to trust the police and posturing does nothing to foster such trust. That takes community outreach, changed policies, and a willingness to admit mistakes, something that seems unlikely to happen in Jefferson Parish unless a deputy is caught on video gunning down a suspect in cold blood.

I usually play this feature for laughs but after seeing the video of Walter Scott’s murder and Newell Normand’s shameful performance on the local news last night, I felt compelled to be serious for a change. I’d also like to admonish the local media for characterizing Normand’s tantrum as impassioned. It was petulant, childish, and beneath the dignity of a public servant charged with protecting the community from criminals. And that is why Newell Normand is malaka of the week.

2 thoughts on “Malaka Of The Week: Newell Normand

  1. gratuitous says:

    One other item occurs to me, and perhaps someone knows: How likely is a 9-1-1 call from the West Bank area to get a proportional police response?

    A little background for me: I live in a felony flats area of my city, the sort of neighborhood that City Hall is glad to collect taxes from, but less glad to service with various municipal amenities, including the police. If I called 9-1-1 with a report that the local drug dealer was cruising up and down the street in his well-known pick-up (a la Desmond Willis), the operator would likely berate me that what I described wasn’t an “emergency” situation, and refer me to the police non-emergency number. No police would respond to my 9-1-1 call.

    If I then called the non-emergency number to report local drug dealer cruising the neighborhood in his well-known pick-up (complete with make, model, and license number), the operator would likely say that that was really the sort of thing the Office of Neighborhood Response would address. After calling the Office of Neighborhood Response, I would get a friendly recording telling me that they answer their phones between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and if you’re calling outside that time (which is quite likely, since I work for a living), feel free to leave a message.

    I don’t know how things are in Jefferson Parish, but I’d be mightily offended if the local police chief spent his press conference time berating my neighborhood for failing to call 9-1-1. Citizens in my neck of the woods have been conditioned not to expect any results unless there’s contemporaneous active gunplay going on.

    • Adrastos says:

      Normand is, alas, bulletproof. He doesn’t need black voters to pile up large majorities.

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