New Orleans, La. – About 200 people attending the meeting at the Touro Synagogue on St. Charles Avenue were given an overview about changes under way in the city's criminal justice system. It comes as the city recorded five killings on Martin Luther King Day. Cannizzaro says more criminal cases are being brought to trial. But he says the public is still wary of trusting police testimony. He says publicity from high-profile federal civil rights cases against police aren't helping, and he's brought his concerns to the U-S Attorney's Office.
"I told them, I wish you guys could wrap up the Glover and Danziger Bridge and get out of town and go someplace else and allow us to try to deal with our own business. Because it's an extreme challenge to us to try to work with that knowing that many jurors look at your witnesses as though they're going to automatically lie before they've heard one word about -- one word out of their mouth."
Serpas says officers who lie are now fired. Federal officials are reviewing policies and will order improvements, and more money is being spent on technology and training.
"Once we as a people in this community can have faith that our police department is operating as well as any other department in the country, as well as any department could be expected to operate, which we are just scratching the surface on that today as we speak, then we as a people will start to think more globally about what it is that we can do to advance safety in New Orleans."
Serpas and Cannizzaro agreed with speakers calling for more youth programs, a better education system and more job opportunities for comprehensive crime prevention.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming