Readings from the beat
As 2015 drew to a close, I sought the recommended reading lists from a civil rights lawyer, a sheriff and a criminologist. All of their selections are non-fiction. Topics include: crime, race, police, leadership, Katrina and the ever-unfolding history of New Orleans.
Mary Howell, civil rights attorney
1. The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, by Michael A. Ross
“It’s a fascinating account of the 19th century African-Creole New Orleans police detective John Baptiste Jourdain, who was assigned to investigate the high-profile kidnapping of an Irish child in New Orleans in 1870. A trial takes place in the complicated swirl of race, class and politics that dominated post-Civil War Reconstruction Louisiana. Jourdain was possibly the first African-American police detective in the United States. He served on the Metropolitan Police, the racially integrated New Orleans police force, which was attacked and basically annihilated by the White League at the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, an event commemorated by a shameful public monument. We may be the only city in the country that has a monument erected to celebrate the massacre of police officers.”
2. Policing the Southern City: New Orleans, 1805-1889, by Dennis Rousey
“For anybody who wants to know about policing in this city, this book is essential. I keep going back to it and every time find something new and valuable.”
3. Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African-American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina, by Leonard N. Moore
“The book is based on published sources and provides a useful chronology of events involving African-Americans and the NOPD since World War II.”
4. Brothels, Depravity and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans, by Judith Schafer
“The book is an eye-opening account about the brutal sex trafficking of young women, many of them Irish immigrants, in 19th century New Orleans. There is no romanticism here about the sex trade, and the violence and hardship it engendered. It’s an extraordinary account of the hypocrisy of the law and society. Some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in town were enriched by this industry, including John McDonogh, who became a ‘millionaire slumlord.’ The author, a Tulane history professor, did amazing work, using police ledgers and court records.”
5. The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, by Lawrence N. Powell
“At least in New Orleans we come by our corruption honestly. We were not founded by Quakers or Pilgrims or people seeking religious freedom, we were founded by pirates, gamblers, slave-traders and adventurers; violence and corruption have been identified with New Orleans from its inception. I have to say though, this book cheers me up; you realize, for all our problems, we shouldn’t even be here at all. So we need to remember to give thanks for all the good things that are here: the people, the food, the music, the culture – despite the tremendous odds.”
Sheriff Newell Normand, Jefferson Parish
On Mardi Gras 2015, a reporter spotted a book propped up on the front seat of a sheriff’s police cruiser. Its title:
1. Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times, by Donald T. Phillips
“This book examines the President’s leadership during the Civil War, how he motivated (or replaced) Union generals and other lessons learned that can be applied in a modern, complex world.”
Lincoln is one of five books on a required reading list for sheriff’s employees participating in a three-part leadership program. Begun in 2012, the training regimen also includes online instruction and workshops, Sheriff’s spokesman Colonel John N. Fortunato says. All five books focus on leadership and management skills:
2. It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, by Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff
A naval commander who transformed a ship from worst-to-first in the Pacific Fleet – using the same crew – imparts management techniques for business leaders.
It’s Your Ship and Lincoln On Leadership are required reading for JPSO’s Leadership I. A total of 900 employees have completed the course, Fortunato says; “Each individual officer at his or her own pace had to complete 14 modules online that concluded with an eight-hour workshop.”
3. It’s Our Ship: The No-Nonsense Guide to Leadership, by D. Michael Abrashoff
More leadership tips from the can-do navy commander.
4. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek
A best-selling motivation book with a glowing vision of job satisfaction.
Start With Why and It’s Our Ship are required reading for JPSO’s Leadership II program, begun in 2014. Approximately 400 officers had completed Leadership II training by October.
5. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than I.Q., by Daniel Goldman
Authored by an international psychologist, Emotional Intelligence argues that I.Q isn’t the only barometer of individual ability. Required reading for JPSO Leadership III trainees.
Heidi Unter, Ph.D., criminologist
1. The Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, by Gary Krist
“A fascinating and dramatic history of the Storyville era.”
2. Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death and Life in New Orleans, by Dan Baum
A story of a city as told through the lives of nine diverse New Orleanians.
3. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children: And Other Streets of New Orleans!, by John Churchill Chase
Every NOPD patrol officer must know the street names in his or her district. “This book is a funny history of New Orleans that tells how our streets got their unusual names – and more.”
4. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink
“It’s a moving book about circumstances, choices and consequences, during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.” [Then-state Attorney General Charles Foti considered the hospital a homicide scene. – A.J.]
5. Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans, by Ethan Brown
“I lived near where this murder occurred and the murderer delivered groceries to my home, so it really did disturb my world.”
Writer’s choice: For a wide and somewhat wonky spectrum of views on the future of policing after massive protests of police killings in Ferguson and other United States cities, get the Final report on the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (May, 2015). Published by the U.S. Department of Justice, the report includes testimony submitted by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson and former Mayor Marc Morial, now president of the National Urban League.