To be sure, we only have one side of the story, but from the account of the only eyewitnesses speaking out, this is what happened at the Treme Community Center Tuesday morning.
Kiyana Howell had arrived at the center to pick up her four children at the end of the Tambourine and Fan summer camp. She parked in the drive-through and was gathering the kids in, when a woman pulled up behind her and began blowing her horn, demanding that she “move it” and “move it now.” The angry motorist, it turned out, was a member of the New Orleans Police Department, 17-month veteran Ashley Terry, who was there in her personal vehicle to pick up her nephew.
According to the staff of the center and some bystanders, Terry was honking her horn and yelling, “B—-, you don’t know who you’re f—- with!” among other crude cursings. At some point, she told Ms. Howell she was a police officer and flaunted her gun in full view of a number of witnesses.
Meanwhile, the staff of the center called 911. Several members of the force showed up a few minutes later. The one in charge talked only to Officer Terry, interviewed no one else, told Ms. Terry that she should have shot the man who had stepped up and suggested she put her gun away, and wrote up the report that the 911 complaint was “unfounded.”
Well, not so fast, defenders of the public welfare. Wednesday morning’s Times-Picayune brandished this all across the front page. Looks like one more example of local police departments taking care of their own, said the report.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen several occasions where a cop was out of line but his colleagues merely warned him and sent him on his way. In one case, the off-duty cop was speeding, almost ran over another policeman, and slapped a cop. However, no charges were filed.
In another, the mayor of Mandeville, just across Lake Pontchartrain to the north, was drunk and behind the wheel of his SUV. He was speeding, broke through the toll booth gate leading on to the causeway, and was finally chased down by the Causeway cops. Because he was the mayor, they took him home and that was that. Except you can’t keep news like this down.
For the next couple of weeks, more and more revelations about Mayor Eddie Price’s drunken behavior came to light, making the front page of our newspaper each time. The cops who should have written him a ticket and booked him but did nothing were fired, as they should have been.
One more, of a different nature.
Last Friday, a New Orleans policeman with maybe 30 years on the force was retiring. For his final day, he wore a light blue uniform shirt to work. Prior to Katrina, that had been the standard dress, but during the chaos of those days, thieves broke in to NOPD offices and stole a stack of uniforms. So, Chief Warren Riley decided to change the uniforms to black. They’ve been black ever since, except for that one cop last Friday, his final day of work. He said he was wearing the old shirt in memory of his colleagues who have died in the line of duty dressed in that attire.
Problem is, he didn’t get permission and his superior officers don’t take too kindly to independent thinking of this kind. At first, we heard that he was suspended the last 15 minutes of his career, and that this would go on his permanent record, which might affect some benefits. When the public howled at the injustice of that, the NOPD went into spin mode. “No, he’s not been suspended,” the spokesman said. An official inquiry is being held.
Citizens pointed out that with all the unsolved murders in this city and the lawlessness on the streets, our police department spends its time investigating the color of shirt a man is wearing, and where is the sanity in that?
Back at the Treme (pronounced Tre-MAY) Center, Thursday morning a battery of Public Integrity Bureau officers showed up to begin interviewing everyone involved. Officer Ashley Terry–maybe her last name should be Terror–has been suspended without pay while the investigation continues. Chief Riley says if it turns out that the officers who responded to the call were covering up misbehavior by a cop, they will be dealt with in a suitable fashion.
Is there anyone out there in cyberspace who remembers Darlene Tolleson-Graham’s favorite Andy Griffith episode, “Citizen’s Arrest”? I mean, anyone other than Dar and me.
After Deputy Barney Fife gives Gomer Pyle a ticket for being illegally parked, he preaches a little sermon about how even ordinary citizens are empowered to make arrests when they see someone breaking the law. With that, Barney gets in the squad car, cranks her up, and makes a U-turn in the middle of Main Street. Gomer runs out into the street yelling, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest! You made a U-turn in the middle of the street! And I’m making a citizen’s arrest.”
Barney argues that his is an official police car, but Gomer–not the dummy he was originally presented to be–counters that, “Yeah, but you weren’t on any official police call. And I’m arresting you for making an illegal turn in the middle of the street.” The crowd that had gathered cheers him on, and an argument ensues between the deputy and citizen.
“Hear that?” Gomer says. “They’s one set of laws for the PO-lice and another for us ordinary folks.”
There may be, but there shouldn’t be.
It comes as a surprise to some Christians that there is not one set of standards for ordinary believers and another for the preachers and missionaries. All have the same Bible and the same expectations put on them from the Lord.
Many a pastor has a sad tale on being attacked for not living up to a standard the accuser makes no pretense about keeping.
And, the opposite has also been found to be true. Some pastors have felt they were above the rules and regulations of “ordinary folk” and indulged themselves in practices God’s word forbids.
I’ve heard of ministers who do not give a tithe of their income–or any of it, for that matter–into the offering plate, and justify it by the lame excuse that “I’m going to get the offering anyway; I’m the servant of the Lord the offering is going to sustain.” But that will not fly. The pastor is expected to live by the same code as the members, and moreso, to set the example for them.
Reading through the Old Testament, it comes as a mild and even pleasant surprise to find that God says there will not be one set of regulations for His people and another for strangers or foreigners who are visiting or living in the land. They will all abide by the same code of behavior (Leviticus 15:14-16).
Now, if we can just get our police and preachers to start doing that, it will be a major step forward.
UPDATES: Saturday morning’s Times-Picayune reports that Chief Riley has suspended without pay the policeman who responded to the 911 call at Treme and determined that the 911 call was without merit, while the investigation goes forward. Likewise with Officer Sanyell Dontell, the New Orleans policeman who led the Crescent City Connection cops on a high-speed chase, side-swiped one of the officers with his car, and slapped another. Stay tuned.