Tear Gas

NOPD Chief: "We won't be defined" by events on Crescent City Connection

Ferguson also rejects charge of systemic racism in department

Newell Normand
June 05, 2020 - 3:04 pm

New Orleans has faced a lot of challenges this week and will face more this weekend as social unrest continues across the metro area and tropical weather looms on the horizon. Newell invited NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson onto the program Friday afternoon to talk about his department’s response to the protests and preparations for the storm.

“I’ve been in this business a long time, as you well know,” Newell began. “I was incredibly proud of the way you handled yourself in that press conference yesterday. I thought you were very deliberate, very factual, and very forthright. There's nobody that can say you haven't been conciliatory in trying to provide an environment for folks to safely demonstrate, and you understand the balance of interests of everyone in this community. My hat is off to you.”

“Thank you - our goal is to ensure safety for everyone, and give you the right to exercise your constitutional rights across the board,” Ferguson said. “Unfortunately, we had an unfortunate incident the other night, but we won’t let that define us. You can continue to do your protests, but it has to be in a peaceful manner, and we will continue to be out there with you as long as you want to be out there.”

“Chief, I guess one of the big issues here - and it’s one that I’ve talked about on the show a lot - it’s got to be really hard for you guys tactically and strategically that the protests are allowed to just meander through the city and not letting you know what direction they are going in,” Newell continued.

“It is difficult,” Ferguson agreed. “We try to get in front of it by identifying the leaders, formal or informal, and have that conversation. In doing that, we’ve had to account for some individuals who do not want to have that dialogue with the police department. We try to lead the way and we’ve been really fortunate here in New Orleans that the majority of the leaders have worked with us. The crowd itself has been phenomenal. You have a few violators who want to vandalize, and the protesters themselves step in and say, that’s not what we are here for, and they are to be commended for that.”

“Obviously, the other night, they decided to do something a little different and break the police line,” Newell said. “A lot of folks dont realize the numbers game - they had maybe 3,000 people out there on that bridge and I’m sure you didn’t have 100. So I kind of chuckle when people talk about protocols. It’s so fluid - you have to make a split-second decision and it’s not an easy decision to deploy that gas. But the fact of the matter is, you are significantly outnumbered.”

“You said it best - it's a fluid situation and we are doing our best to contain it,” Ferguson said. “We met with informal leaders that night and allowed them behind the lines to use our megaphones to have a conversation with the crowd and get their message out, but they were not in a position to work with it. They were adamant about wanting to cross that bridge. Many feel we were wrong for not allowing them to do that, but I have my reservations about that. There’s a lot of things that go into a decision to allow that many people to cross. Are we escorting them into another parish? Is that right? And how will they get back? This will be an all-night affair, not to mention that public safety is first. If we had to go render assistance to anyone in Algiers, we would be unable to do so because the bridge was blocked.”

Hear the entire interview in the audio player below.



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